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  • Optical tweezers, invented by Arthur Ashkin at Bell Labs and recognized by a Nobel Prize in Physics, is the standard method for manipulating and studying biological cells and molecules in a remote way. We have invented a series of optical manipulation techniques that break existing bottlenecks in optical tweezers and exhibit multiple advantages: expanded working mode, low optical power, reduced sample damage, and easy operation. These techniques enable new research in biology and nanoscience. They also enable the developments of novel nanorobots, point-of-care devices, and nano-architected materials for the broader applications in health, information technology, green energy, and environmental sustainability

  • We exploit both categories of optical manipulation technologies (i.e., manipulating biomaterials with light and manipulating light with nano-architected materials) to innovate optical imaging and spectroscopy that can measure biological structures and functions at high sensitivity, resolution and speed. We develop chiroptical spectroscopy enhanced by optothermal manipulation and chiral metamaterials to enable label-free ultrasensitive enantiodiscrimination of chiral molecules for space life detection, pharmaceutical quality control, and point-of-care disease diagnosis. By exploiting multimodal optothermal manipulation and machine learning, we develop 4D adhesion frequency assay for full profiling of cell-cell interactions and intelligent microscopy for 3D imaging and classification of organisms.

  • New optical phenomena emerge when discrete nanostructures are arranged into nano-architected materials (e.g., metamaterials), enabling manipulation and utilization of light in new ways. We develop nano-architected materials that direct light flow at the nanoscale to improve optical cooling and sensing applications. By arranging semiconductor nanostructures nearby to metal or dielectric ones, we direct energy and electron migration to enhance light absorption and emission processes, which are fundamental to solar energy conversion and optical communications. We utilize bioinspiration and machine learning to design nano-architected materials with optimal properties for targeted applications. Our optical manipulation techniques enable the on-demand manufacturing of nano-architected materials. 


We innovate cutting-edge optical manipulation and measurement technologies for the biological and nanoscale world. Specifically, we aim to 

  • push the boundaries of knowledge in the fundamental understanding of light-matter interactions and opto-thermo-fluidic multiphysics, which are critical to advancing optical manipulation and measurement,
  • develop novel optical manipulation and measurement technologies that drive progress in biology and nanoscience,
  • leverage optical manipulation and measurement as enabling technologies to create new materials, devices, and robots for the broader applications in health, energy, environmental, and information technology, and
  • further breakthrough discoveries and innovations by utilizing machine-learning-enhanced design and data analysis in optical manipulation and measurement.

 Group Leader:

 Yuebing Zheng, Associate Professor                                         Temple Foundation Endowed Fellowship 
 Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering
 Materials Science and Engineering Program
 The University of Texas at Austin
 Austin, TX 78712, United States
 Phone: 1 (512) 471-0228

 We are also affiliated with Department of Electrical and   Computer Engineering, Department of Biomedical Engineering,   Center for Electrochemistry, and Center for Planetary   Systems Habitability.

Featured Publications

Book: Nanophotonics and Machine Learning [Springer (2023)]

Book: Intelligent Nanotechnology [Elsevier Science (2022)]

Optical Nanomotors on Solid Substrates [ACS Nano (2022)]

Opto-Refrigerative Tweezers [Science Advances (2021)]

Opto-Thermoelectric Pulling of Particles [LSA (2020)]

Solid-Phase Optical Tweezers [Nature Communications (2019)

Reconfigurable Chiral Metamolecules [Materials Today (2019)]

Opto-Thermoelectric Nanotweezers [Nature Photonics (2018)]

Opto-Thermophoretic Tweezers [ACS Nano (2017)]

Bubble-Pen Lithography [Nano Letters (2016)]