Geo-fractal…somewhere over south India

I am always amazed to see fractal-like patterns….this one at a geographical scale…captured somewhere over south India..

I took the photo on my trip back to Pune from IIT Madras…

Thanks to IIT-M physics department for their invitation for colloquium…

Special thanks to Basudev Roy and Nirmala for hosting…. greatly enjoyed the discussion with many faculties and students..

In my talk, I mainly spoke on topics at the interface of statistical optics, Brownian motion and pattern formation..
Was delighted to see (and meet) Profs. Balki, Suresh Govindarajan Sunil Kumar Arnab Pal and many more in the audience.

The photo, retrospectively, captures the essence of the science discussed…

Soft Matter Optics – talk at ACS -India

About 2 years ago (22nd May 2020), when all the academic activities were online, I gave a talk on “Soft-Matter Optics: A Cabinet of Curiosities” organized by American Chemical Society as part of India Science Talks. Below is the embedded video of the online talk.

Link to ACS website can be found here.

In there, I give a broad overview of how interesting optical function can emerge from the complex world of soft matter. In addition to this, I have emphasized how optics can be harnessed to study structure and dynamics of soft-matter systems including colloids, liquid crystal and some biological matter. The target audience are new PhD students and anyone who is entering the field of light-soft matter interaction.

Hot Brownian Colloids – talk

On 19th Jan 2023, I gave a ~40 min talk on “Hot Brownian Colloids in Structured Optical Tweezers” in a very interesting conference on Frontiers in Non-Equilibrium Physics (FNEP) held at Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai.

I mainly spoke about emergent Brownian dynamics of laser-heated colloids under optical confinement. Below is the link to the talk.

I concluded my talk quoting P W Anderson’s essay “More is Different

“The constructionist hypothesis breaks down when confronted with the twin difficulties of scale and complexity.  The behavior of large and complex aggregates of elementary particles, it turns out, is not to be understood in terms of a simple extrapolation of the properties of a few particles.

Instead, at each level of complexity entirely new properties appear, and the understanding of the new behaviors requires research which I think is as fundamental in its nature as any other.”

P.W. Anderson  ‘More is Different’
Science, 177, 4047 (1972)

More is not only different, but also wonderful !

New paper :”Optothermal evolution of active colloidal matter in defocused laser trap”

We have a new paper to be published in ACS Photonics on “Optothermal evolution of active colloidal matter in defocused laser trap”

In the context of non-equilibrium statistical mechanics, it is relevant to ask : how does a system of (active) Brownian particles respond to environmental cues ?

Structured light in the form of an optical trap can facilitate a platform to create unconventional, environmental cues in which Brownian particles can dynamically assemble and evolve as a function of space and time.

In this work, we utilize a simple defocused laser trap and study the evolutionary dynamics of thermally active colloids (polystyrene spheres infused with iron oxide). We observe a variety of (nonlinear) dynamical states including hovering of a pair, a kind of synchrony among the assembled colloids in the trap (see video).

Thanks to the great efforts of Dipta and Rahul from my group, we have been able to study and unveil the complex forces at play. The dual contribution of optical potential of the laser and thermophoretic interaction of colloids were revealed by systematic experiments and numerical simulations leading to this elaborate report.

This study further motivates interesting questions in the context of microscopic heat engines where the light and heat created in an optical trap can lead to some interesting nonlinear dynamics of soft matter systems. Another prospect is to characterize structured optothermal fields using Brownian motors as microscopic probes in an optical trap. More on this in the coming month….

all videos related to the work on our lab youtube channel

preprint version of the paper on arxiv :

I will post the published version of the article when available

58. Optothermal Pulling of colloids using Nanowire Plasmons – my talk at Compflu 2021

Linked is my recorded-talk presented at Compflu 2021 today (13th Dec) in the session : Active and Living Matter.

I discuss our recent work on optothermal pulling, trapping and assembly of micro-colloids under the influence of thermoplasmonic field of a single silver nanowire.

The talk was recorded on 2nd Dec 2021, so the reference on conclusion-slide is not updated.

42. New paper on WGMs via plasmonic nanowire

We have a new paper in Materials Research Bulletin to be published in a special issue on Recent Advances in Functional Materials

The paper is about “Sub-wavelength plasmon polaritons channeling of whispering gallery modes of fluorescent silica microresonator”

Individual spherical objects, such as a silica-microsphere, when excited with a laser under certain conditions, exhibit a set of optical resonances called as “whispering gallery modes” (WGMs). These modes are very sharp (high Q value) and can be harnessed as optical resonators. An interesting prospect is to channel the WGMs through a nanoscale plasmonic waveguide, such as a single silver nanowire, and study the optical emission.

Motivated by this prospect, Sunny Tiwari and Chetna Taneja from my group experimentally show how to channel WGMs through a plasmonic silver nanowire waveguide. They go a step ahead and show the spectral and angular characteristics of such a hybrid optical system. These experiments motivate further questions related to micro-resonances and angular spectrum distribution in dielectric-plasmonic hybrid systems, and can be harnessed to design compact micro-lasers and on-chip couplers. With some effort, they can also be optically trapped and manipulated.

arxiv link to the paper :

DOI of the published paper:

Colloids in Choreographic Time Crystals

Christmas, Christmas Ornament, Concept, Snowflake

Image courtesy: Pixabay – creative commons license

Crystal to time crystal : Periodic arrangement of atoms in the form of a crystal is well known to us. The periodicity in conventional crystal is  with respect to its spatial co-ordinates. An interesting question is : what if  the periodicity of a crystal is also considered in temporal co-ordinates, that is with respect to time ? Such crystals, in which  atoms (or their equivalents) repeat both in space and time are called time-crystals (specifically space-time crystals).

Origins : Although the term “time crystal” was used in biological context in 1970s, it was a research paper by Alfred Shapere and Frank Wilczek in 2012 which brought this interesting concept into mainstream physics. Wilczek, a Nobel laureate, also postulated the concept of quantum time crystal, which has added great impetus to this exploration. These theoretical concepts were experimentally probed and verified by Zhang’s group at UC Berkeley using ions in a cylindrical arrangement. Since then, there is a lot of research activity in this area. My colleagues at IISER-Pune – Sreejith and Mahesh, have created a new variety of time crystals by subjecting periodic NMR pulses to spins in star-shaped molecules .  

    I should also mentioned that after Wilczek’s results were published, Patric Bruno criticized the quantum counterpart based on No-Go theorem argument. There are some interesting debates which are still going on regarding the thermodynamic aspects of these crystals. Also many new applications have been proposed and tested based on the initial predications. To know more about the history and current trends in time-crystals, I suggest a recent, comprehensive review article.

Choreographic (time) crystals : Dance is something inherent to humans, and may be to other living beings. As per google dictionary, the term choreography means the sequence of steps and movements in dance or figure skating, especially in a ballet or other staged dance. In a choreographic time crystal, the movement of atoms (or their equivalent) are in a sequence of steps and co-ordinated, just as in a dance sequence. This means the spatial and temporal co-ordinates of this crystal varies in a predictable way, and hence represents a space-time crystal.  Such a concept was proposed in a paper in 2016. An interesting issue discussed in this theoretical paper is how Bragg’s diffraction law can be modified and adapted to probe such choreographic crystals. Modification of this law in necessary as atoms in a dancing lattice are in constant motion, and to obtain snapshots of the moving atoms one needs a capture protocol (diffraction in this case).

Colloidal dance : Atoms are tiny objects. If we need to probe the spatial and temporal evolution of atoms in a crystals, then we require sophisticated imaging tools (such as scanning tunneling microscope) to track atoms in space and time in an ultra-high vacuum condition. Is there any alternative, cheaper method to this approach? The answer is yes (with some caveats). One way is to utilize colloids (micron-scale objects floating in a fluid)  and treat them as big atoms. This is of course  an approximation, as colloids are classical objects, but many of the physical concepts that are applicable to atoms may be scaled up to colloidal size, and this scaling has been verified and harnessed to mimic and study collective behavior of atoms.

   Coming back to choreographic time crystal, the obvious question to ask is: can we use colloids to visualize the dance of this crystal ? A recent paper in PRL (arxiv version) addresses this question with numerical simulations. The authors first propose an experimental scheme to create a choreographic optical lattice using light as a tool. They hypothesize optical potential wells that can evolve both in space and time, and numerically study the evolution of colloids in such a choreographic time crystal. An important finding from their study is that they identify three phases of dynamics, in which the interaction between the potential-well  and the colloids is weak, medium and strong. In these three phases, they observe chiral looping of colloids, liquid-like behavior and colloidal choreography. I strongly recommend to have a look at the amazing simulation videos for the three simulated regimes of interaction : weak , strong , medium.

Summary : What I have described above is a metaphorical snapshot of how concepts in physics such as time crystals, optical lattice and colloids can come together on a single platform to collectively give something, which is not feasible to obtain by any of the individual entity. The concept of crystal itself is a manifestation of this ‘emergence’ philosophy. In an essence these ideas are both a tribute to, and reinforcement of, the concept:  “More is Different”…..  adieu Anderson….