Soft matter is at the core of modern technology as well as of the living organisms. Our group explores how self-organising nature of materials, such as liquid crystals and photosensitive films, can be manipulated by light, structured geometries and inorganic nanoparticles. Experimental investigation, as well as new mathematical approaches to their understanding that we pursue, offer some challenging research questions that pave the way to innovative, adaptive optical components and technologies. We also develop new, photonics based tools to characterise soft matter.





PhD position available: Hybrid Nano-Electro-Mechanical Systems for Controlling Light and Sensing

Supervisors: Dr Vassili Fedotov and Prof Malgosia Kaczmarek
Nano-electro-mechanical systems (NEMS) are the next generation of Microsystems – integrated miniature devices comprising both mechanical and electrical components. NEMS have the ability to sense, control and actuate on the nanoscale, and generate observable effects on the macroscale. They are anticipated to bridge (at the nanometer scale) several, previously unrelated technological and scientific domains such as, for example, electronics, photonics, metamaterials and plasmonics, medicine, chemistry, metrology and quantum mechanics. Some of the fascinating recent examples of such synergies include NEMS-based mass spectrometers, quantum transducers, and mechanically re-configurable metamaterials & plasmonic chips. Correspondingly, NEMS is beginning to shape into a key technology of the 21st century, with a potential to revolutionize both industrial and consumer products.
 In this PhD project we aim to develop a new, hybrid class of NEMS for applications in smart optical materials (metamaterials) and sensors that will feature reliable, dynamically adaptable behaviour and field-programmable functions. Our approach is based on integrating NEMS with liquid crystals, which will be exploited as a functional component of the resulting hybrids. The project is looking to explore interplay between the optical and elastic properties of liquid crystals coupled to nanoscale mechanical motion and deformations in NEMS. The successful candidate will work in an interdisciplinary environment, in close collaboration with colleagues from soft-matter and microsystems groups. The candidate will have access to the Southampton University’s state-of-the-art cleanroom complex and laboratories, with the opportunity to engage in a broad range of activities from nanofabrication and optical characterization to numerical modelling. The project offers an opportunity for scientific and hands-on training in the techniques relevant both to academia and R&D, providing the student with sufficient expertise to become a driver of the new technology.

Smart optical material system – mechanically reconfigurable gold metamaterial integrated with liquid crystals. 
We are looking for an enthusiastic candidate with a background in physics, an interest in photonic technologies or material science, and a desire to develop advanced skills in nanofabrication, electron and optical microscopy, experimental photonics and computational electromagnetic modelling. Applicants are expected to hold undergraduate degrees equivalent to UK 1st class honours.
To discuss any details of the project informally please contact Dr. Vassili Fedotov (vaf@orc.soton.ac.uk) or Prof. Malgosia Kaczmarek (mfk@soton.ac.uk).



Our APL article: feature paper and on the cover page