We explore light as a tool in classical physics, such as when it can be used to push or pull individual particles (think of where a comet's tail comes from!), or for exploring the dynamics of colloidal particles (such as cells, bacteria, or test spheres), or even light's ability to be used in sensing of very small numbers of particles.
Of course, there's a world beyond the classical and we also consider light's role in quantum physics, where photons can be used to slow down neutral atoms, in a process known as laser-cooling, or combined with magnetic fields to spatially trap and cool atoms in a magneto-optical trap, where temperatures of about 100 microKelvin are routinely obtained in the lab. All of these techniques are crucial in the development of future quantum-based technologies relying on neutral ground state or Rydberg atoms.
In general, we study the interaction between light and matter in a number of regimes, including cold atomic systems, whispering gallery mode microresonators and biologically-relevant samples, to gain a better understanding of the processes involved and to manipulate or trap micron and nanoscaled particles using light fields. A common technique across our work is the use of optical nanofibres as the interface tool between the light source and the sample under investigation. Researchers in our unit need/acquire a huge range of skills from optics, atomic physics, simulations, photonics, electronics, vacuum, cryogenics, nanotechnology, interfacing, programming, and so on, and there are some opportunities to gain skills in biophysics and other interdisciplinary topics such as sensing and imaging. While much of our research focus is fundamental in nature, we use skills that are highly relevant to industry with a focus on nanofabrication, optics, automation, system modelling and control.