J1-7300 Metamaterials from liquid crystal colloids

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Research project is (co) funded by the Slovenian Research Agency.

UL Member: Faculty of Mathematics and Physics
Code: J1-7300
Project: Metamaterials from liquid crystal colloids
Period: 1.1.2016 - 31.12.2018
Range per year: 1,63 FTE, category C
Head: Ravnik Miha
Research activity: Natural sciences and mathematics
Research Organisations: link on SICRIS
Researchers: link on SICRIS
Citations for bibliographic records: link on SICRIS

Project description:

Photonics and control over the flow-of-light is today a highly competitive and quickly developing field with ambitious scientific and technological goals that include optical computing, fast data transfer, energy efficiency and novel sensing and manufacturing processes in fields ranging from medical science to space technology. Development of novel unconventional optical materials is at the forefront of challenges in these areas as new materials allow for new, better, and different mechanisms and applications of light fields. In this soft matter photonics project, we will develop novel optical materials -the nematic fluid metamaterials- and study of their unconventional emergent photonic phenomena by equally combining experiments and theory modelling approaches. The goal is to realise selected proof-of-concept metamaterials and explore their main photonic functions. At the core of these new three-dimensional soft metamaterials will be bulk-conductive and surface-conductive colloidal particles and surfaces of designed three-dimensional shapes, such as prisms, platelets and hollow particles, to perform as split ring resonators, capable of designed anisotropic metamaterial photonic response. They will be dispersed in the host nematic fluid which will provide a fluid matrix for the particle self-assembly, with unique capabilities of spatial and temporal tunability, topological binding and responsiveness to external fields. As a far reach vision, effectively, all modern displays are based on the unique and simple tunability of birefringence of nematic fluids which originates from orientational ordering of anisotropic molecules; and the idea in this proposal is to extend this tunability to metamaterial birefringence with positive and negative refractive (eigen) indices by self-assembling super-structures of colloidal meta-particles in the nematic fluid.  By appropriate design of the colloidal metamaterial, including (i) particle shape, size, and symmetry, (ii) nematic elasticity and (iii) functionalization of surfaces, the aim is to achieve reconfigurable metamaterials with negative permeabilities and/or permittivities at frequencies ranging from THz and optical to infrared. Of particular scientific relevance will be questions on: (i) the relation between the symmetry of the structure and the metamaterial light response, (ii) 3D metamaterial optical anisotropy with possible double negative refraction, and (iii) hierarchical multi-scale design of metamaterials - which are all open and "hot" scientific question at the front of soft matter photonics research. The developed metamaterials will be fluid, flexible, polymerizable - if needed-, and inherently tunable, which are material characteristics far beyond the current state-of-the-art. The project will realized by the soft matter group in Ljubljana which is world-wide known for joint theoretical and experimental work and high scientific standards, e.g. proposal-related publications include Nature Phys. 2015, Nature Mater. 2014, Science 2011, and Nature Photon. 2009. The research work of the project is strongly intertwined in the international research efforts with collaborators including UColorado, UOxford, UGhent, Mahindra Ecole Centrale and USA AFRL. The socio-economic deliverables of the project are designed to yield distinct outreach, contribute to the excellence of Slovenia and abroad, and contribute new knowledge in photonics to Slovenian photonic industry. Finally, we are aiming at the cutting edge of the state-of-the-art photonics, to create novel scientific and technological pathways for controlling the flow-of-light at the microscopic and macroscopic level.

Work packages:

The research will be organised along into four general Research Objectives (RO1-RO4), running in parallel, to achieve a wide-view angle of the research topic.

  • RO1 - Metamaterial building blocks and individual photonic response
  • RO2 - 3D Metamaterial self-assembly and collective photonic response
  • RO3 - Metamaterial surfaces
  • RO4 - Tunability and multi-scale design