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Research

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: enhanced functionality, expanded working mode and environment, low optical power, reduced sample damage, simple optics, and easy operation. Our manipulation techniques enable both new research in biology and nanoscience, and innovations in nanorobots, point-of-care devices and nano-architected materials

We leverage optical manipulation to innovate optical measurement of structures, interactions and functions of living cells and molecules at high sensitivity, resolution and speed. We develop optothermal-driven metamaterial-enhanced chiroptical spectroscopy, which enables label-free ultrasensitive enantiodiscrimination of chiral molecules for in situ space life detection, pharmaceutical quality control, and point-of-care testing of chiral biomarkers of diseases. By exploiting new optical tweezers and machine learning, we develop four-dimensional adhesion frequency assay for full profiling of receptor-ligand interactions on cells, and intelligent microscopy for high-resolution volumetric imaging and classification of organisms.

New optical phenomena emerge to enable advanced manipulation of light when discrete nanostructures are arranged into nano-architected materials (also known as metamaterials in some cases). We develop light-driven digital manufacturing of nano-architected materials and explore their emergent properties for light manipulation and applications. We demonstrate that nano-architected materials that direct light flow and enhance light-matter interactions 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 or emission processes, which are fundamental to solar energy conversion and optical communications.