The Synthetic Optics group (www.st-andrews.ac.uk/physics/synthopt) in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews has a large portfolio of research projects aimed at designing and exploiting light matter interactions at the nanoscale. The range of applications targeted is equally wide and includes the development of advanced materials, nonlinear and complex photonic and biophotonics applications. All these strands converge in the newly funded project “AMPHIBIANS”, which aims at developing a novel biophotonic platform based on the all optical manipulation of photonic metasurfaces in microfluidic environments. This experimental PhD project will focus on the design and fabrication of the photonic metasurfaces.
The current trend in biophotonics is to try and replicate the same ease and precision that our hands, eyes and ears offer at the macroscopic level, e.g. to hold, observe, squeeze and pull, rotate, cut and probe biological specimens in microfluidic environments. The bidding to get closer and closer to the object of interest has prompted the development of extremely advanced manipulation techniques at scales comparable to that of the wavelength of light. However, the fact that the optical beam can only access the microfluidic chip from the narrow aperture of a microscopic objective limits the versatility of the photonic functions that can be realized.
AMPHIBIANS aims to introduce a new biophotonic platform based on the all optical manipulation of flexible photonic metasurfaces. These artificial two-dimensional materials have virtually arbitrary photonic responses and have an intrinsic exceptional mechanical stability. This cross-disciplinary project, bridging photonics, material sciences and biology, will enable the adoption of the most modern and advanced photonic designs in microfluidic environments, with transformative benefits for microscopy and biophotonic applications at the interface of molecular and cell biology.
This experimental project is a unique opportunity for a motivated individual to work at the forefront of a cross-disciplinary and timely topic. The project is challenging but highly rewarding as it gives to the student the opportunity to learn different and highly valued skills, from the advanced design of nanophotonic devices, to the fabrication and characterisation of metasurfaces in the visible range and their applications to biological problems.