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Department of Physics

The Cavendish Laboratory

Creating and manipulating condensed matter through self- and directed-assembly on the nanoscale gives nano-systems with unusual properties and opens up many new areas of highly interdisciplinary science.

These explore how atoms, molecules, inorganic components such as semiconductor/ metallic nanoparticles, and (bio)polymers, can be combined into nanostructures that offer new functionality when they are used to confine and modify the behaviour of light, emitters, magnetism, charge and particle flow, dipoles, forces, spin, thermal, and other properties.

Improved function opens up high-impact basic science but also underpins the technologies of the future, holding the key to low-energy information technologies, healthcare sensing, sustainable materials, security, and the internet of things. This therefore combines discovery science with many application perspectives.

The theme is strongly interdisciplinary involving many collaborative research programmes with other Departments in the Schools of Physical Sciences, Technology and the Biological Sciences.

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Researchers associated with this theme

News and articles related to this theme

Research areas

Nanoscience and nanomachines

As nanoscience is developing, our capability to both probe and construct on this lengthscale is dramatically improving. Using concepts of directed assembly and active driving, we are constructing the first efficient machines which operate at this smallest size. [Baumberg, Keyser]

PlasmonicsNanophotonics of plasmonics, atoms, molecules and emitters

Gold nano-structures confine light into nanoscale volumes as plasmons. We can now confine light to the sub-nanometre scale, allowing us to watch single molecules and even atom movements in real time. We also demonstrate the ability to track chemical reactions at the single molecule scale, for new types of catalysis. [Baumberg, De Nijs]

DNA nanotechnologiesDNA nanotechnologies

Using DNA as a nano-constructional material enables computer-aided design of gadgets from pores that allow ion flow through lipid membranes, to scaffolds that hold single dye molecules, to artificial enzymes that assemble nanoparticles. [Keyser, Baumberg]

holeyfibresHollow fibres for photochemistry, sensing and nano-assembly

Optofluidic hollow-core photonic crystal fibre (HC-PCF) allows light to be guided at the centre of a microfluidic channel, maximizing its interaction with liquids and particles. This system offers unique opportunities to study photochemical reactions and in advanced optical trapping experiments. [Euser]

Microfluidic techniques and physics

Rapid production of micron-scale liquid droplets allows now the investigation of individual cells one at a time. This also opens up new ways to study protein interactions, as well as a host of sensing and separation technologies. [Knowles, Keyser]

Polymer and colloid science and nano-assembly

Understanding how polymer chains can induce ordering on the nanoscale, enables construction of strange materials, such as liquid crystal elastomers which change shape in response to light. We also make polymer analogues from microspheres to directly watch the physics of polymer chains. [Terentjev, De Nijs, Eiser]

Iridescent celluloseFunctional materials

Metamaterials are a new sort of optical material constructed from nano-engineered elements. Among others, we explore structural colour materials, made cheaply from a new shear-induced nano-assembly on the kilometre-scale. The colour comes from the scattering of light inside the regularly arranged nanostructure.

nanoporesNanopore sensing

Nanopores – nanometre sized holes in membranes – are versatile sensors used to detect biological molecules such as proteins and viruses, and even to sequence DNA. We build nanopores from a variety of materials, including graphene and DNA nanostructures, to better understand how to control the transport of molecules through these pores and so develop new sensing technologies. [Keyser]

Physics for Sustainable Chemistry

Carefully tailored nanostructures can focus light down to molecular length-scales, allowing highly localised energy delivery and enables optical interrogation on single molecules. The PSC group explores on a fundamental level how these properties can be utilised to promote important chemical transformations and monitor these processes on the shortest possible length-scales. [De Nijs]


Researchers and Research Groups associated with this theme

Prof Jeremy J Baumberg FRS, FRSC

Nano-photonics, plasmonics and scalable nano-assembly

Prof Erika Eiser

DNA-functionalized colloids, surfactants and (bio)polymers

Dr Tijmen Euser

Optofluidics and sensing with holey optical fibres

Dr Bart De Nijs 

Photocatalysis and nanoplasmonics

Prof Ulrich F. Keyser

Nano transport processes through membranes

Prof Tuomas Knowles

Protein self-assembly, nanoscale machinery of life

Prof Eugene Terentjev

Liquid crystalline elastomers




Other researchers collaborating on this theme

Prof Mete Atatüre

Quantum Optical Materials and Systems

Dr Hugo Bronstein

Dr Christopher Braithwaite

Surface Surfaces, Microstructure and Fracture Group

Dr Rakesh Arul

Dr Jorge Rene Espinosa

Dr Alpha Lee 

Statistical physics and physical statistics