Nano Photonics-Based Micro Robotics (PHOTBOTS)

We combine our expertise on complex photonic materials and direct laser writing, to create micro structured patterns in liquid crystal elastomers, which are rubber-like polymers with liquid crystalline properties that can be triggered with light. In our view, this opens up a new strategy to create robots of various kinds, on a truly micrometer length scale. That is, micro robots that can swim, walk, or crawl, and when at destination perform specific tasks, controlled and driven by light. This proposal, in the first instance, deals with fundamental, curiosity-driven research and wishes to address the wealth of physics and chemistry that arises when combining nano photonics with micro robotics. Having said that, the range of potential applications is very broad. Our photonic micro robots would be able to penetrate otherwise difficult to access environments and perform tasks such as sensing or sampling. They could be made in large quantities which means they could also be put into action collectively in swarms (using mechanical and/or optical interaction between the individual robots). The project is truly interdisciplinary, which makes it very challenging but also exciting. The photonic micro robotic structures will be created by bringing together concepts from physics and chemistry, while the inspiration for designs comes partly from biology and potential applications can be foreseen in medicine.
micro walker on a human hair

Optically controlled elastic microcavities

In the field of tunable micro-photonic devices, a new concept for controlling the resonant wavelength of active and passive micro-cavities exploiting a light induced elastic deformation has been developped. The broad diffusion of whispering gallery mode resonator (WGMR) devices is motivated by their small modal volume and high quality factor. The stable and reversible optical tuning of the characteristic sharp resonances increases the cavity functionality and makes them highly actractive both for fundamental physics as well as for application in optical sensing or communication technology. Optical tuning of the resonant frequency is achieved by the integration of photo-responsive liquid crystalline elastomeric micro-structures into active and passive micro-cavities employing the 3D lithographic techinique of direct laser writing. We present a compact, reliable, tunable micro-laser that can be completed implemented in integrated optical circuits. The same tuning principle can be transferrred to passive cavities in integrated polymeric circuit leading to the realization of optically tunable filters, devices largely employed in the telecommunication filter technology and in the future advanced photonic network.micro goblet resonator