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Center for Nanoscale Materials

Nanophotonics and Biofunctional Structures

We use ultra-fast-spectroscopy and advanced microscopy to understand optical energy transduction and quantum sensing, and also create nature-inspired assemblies for energy conversion, transport and biosensing.

The objective of the Nanophotonics & Biofunctional Structures (nPBS) group is to understand the fundamental behaviors that govern light-matter interactions in nanostructures and ultimately to create functional nanomaterials inspired by nature’s principles. We further seek to discover new artificial materials that evolve and achieve resilience by harnessing environmental fluctuations, ultimately adapting and evolving as they are exposed to the environment. In order to achieve these goals, the group’s research encompasses the prediction, design, creation and characterization of functional nanoscale materials, with a particular emphasis on understanding energy flow in hybrid nanostructures. For instance, the coupling of nanoparticles with normally disparate properties, such as a metal and semiconductor to form a hybrid nanostructure, can produce completely new optical, electronic and functional properties that otherwise would not be possible.

With advances in nanoscale materials synthesis we can introduce structural, compositional and interfacial inhomogeneity that evolves, and develop desired functionality that cannot be achieved in perfect isotropic materials. The ability to realize these nanostructures is at the limit of current technology due to the nanoscale spatial precision that is required. We are thus developing important new approaches to fabricate, characterize and manipulate nanoparticle hybrid structures with controllable properties. We use advanced spectroscopies and microscopies, such as ultrafast time-resolution experiments and emission imaging, to understand and visualize the critical factors that influence the flow of energy following photoexcitation. Ultimately we seek to use this knowledge to create better solutions for catalysis, solar energy conversion, energy storage, quantum sensing and even medical therapies.

Research activities in nPBS include:

  • Hybrid systems—to build new forms of matter with tailored functionalities
  • Visualization of nanoparticle interactions—to understand, predict, and design physical and chemical interactions
  • Evolution of nanostructures under external stimuli—in situ and in operando studies to understand dynamic mechanisms
  • Ultrafast transient absorption and emission spectroscopies and microscopies to understand energy flow, light harvesting and charge separation in nanoscale systems
  • Creating new nanoscale functionalities for nanophotonics, quantum sensing and energy conversion


  • Femtosecond to microsecond time-resolved absorption spectroscopy with UV to NIR excitation and UV to THz probe
  • Ultrafast photoluminescence spectroscopy and microscopy
  • Single photon microscope for quantum optics
  • Confocal Raman microscopy and mapping
  • Optically-coupled scanning probe microscopies
  • TEM, SEM, laser scanning confocal fluorescence microscopy
  • Synthesis of nanoparticles, clusters, and self-assembly

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