The study, published in Nature Physics and co-written by researchers at the Soft Matter Lab of the Department of Physics at the University of Gothenburg, demonstrate that tunable repulsive critical Casimir forces can be used to counteract stiction, i.e., the tendency of tiny parts of micro- and nanoelectromechanical devices to stick together, which is caused by the Casimir-Lifshitz interaction.
Tunable critical Casimir forces counteract Casimir-Lifshitz attraction
Falko Schmidt, Agnese Callegari, Abdallah Daddi-Moussa-Ider, Battulga Munkhbat, Ruggero Verre, Timur Shegai, Mikael Käll, Hartmut Löwen, Andrea Gambassi and Giovanni Volpe
Nature Physics (2022)
Casimir forces in quantum electrodynamics emerge between microscopic metallic objects because of the confinement of the vacuum electromagnetic fluctuations occurring even at zero temperature. Their generalization at finite temperature and in material media are referred to as Casimir-Lifshitz forces. These forces are typically attractive, leading to the widespread problem of stiction between the metallic parts of micro- and nanodevices. Recently, repulsive Casimir forces have been experimentally realized but their reliance on specialized materials prevents their dynamic control and thus limits their further applicability. Here, we experimentally demonstrate that repulsive critical Casimir forces, which emerge in a critical binary liquid mixture upon approaching the critical temperature, can be used to actively control microscopic and nanoscopic objects with nanometer precision. We demonstrate this by using critical Casimir forces to prevent the stiction caused by the Casimir-Lifshitz forces. We study a microscopic gold flake above a flat gold-coated substrate immersed in a critical mixture. Far from the critical temperature, stiction occurs because of dominant Casimir-Lifshitz forces. Upon approaching the critical temperature, however, we observe the emergence of repulsive critical Casimir forces that are sufficiently strong to counteract stiction. This experimental demonstration can accelerate the development of micro- and nanodevices by preventing stiction as well as providing active control and precise tunability of the forces acting between their constituent parts.
Deep learning in light–matter interactions
Daniel Midtvedt, Vasilii Mylnikov, Alexander Stilgoe, Mikael Käll, Halina Rubinsztein-Dunlop and Giovanni Volpe
Nanophotonics, 11(14), 3189-3214 (2022)
The deep-learning revolution is providing enticing new opportunities to manipulate and harness light at all scales. By building models of light–matter interactions from large experimental or simulated datasets, deep learning has already improved the design of nanophotonic devices and the acquisition and analysis of experimental data, even in situations where the underlying theory is not sufficiently established or too complex to be of practical use. Beyond these early success stories, deep learning also poses several challenges. Most importantly, deep learning works as a black box, making it difficult to understand and interpret its results and reliability, especially when training on incomplete datasets or dealing with data generated by adversarial approaches. Here, after an overview of how deep learning is currently employed in photonics, we discuss the emerging opportunities and challenges, shining light on how deep learning advances photonics.
Label-free nanofluidic scattering microscopy of size and mass of single diffusing molecules and nanoparticles
Barbora Špačková, Henrik Klein Moberg, Joachim Fritzsche, Johan Tenghamn, Gustaf Sjösten, Hana Šípová-Jungová, David Albinsson, Quentin Lubart, Daniel van Leeuwen, Fredrik Westerlund, Daniel Midtvedt, Elin K. Esbjörner, Mikael Käll, Giovanni Volpe & Christoph Langhammer
Nature Methods 19, 751–758 (2022)
Label-free characterization of single biomolecules aims to complement fluorescence microscopy in situations where labeling compromises data interpretation, is technically challenging or even impossible. However, existing methods require the investigated species to bind to a surface to be visible, thereby leaving a large fraction of analytes undetected. Here, we present nanofluidic scattering microscopy (NSM), which overcomes these limitations by enabling label-free, real-time imaging of single biomolecules diffusing inside a nanofluidic channel. NSM facilitates accurate determination of molecular weight from the measured optical contrast and of the hydrodynamic radius from the measured diffusivity, from which information about the conformational state can be inferred. Furthermore, we demonstrate its applicability to the analysis of a complex biofluid, using conditioned cell culture medium containing extracellular vesicles as an example. We foresee the application of NSM to monitor conformational changes, aggregation and interactions of single biomolecules, and to analyze single-cell secretomes.
Casimir-Lifshitz forces vs. Critical Casimir forces: Trapping and releasing of flat metallic particles Falko Schmidt
729. WE-Heraeus Stiftung Seminar on Fluctuation-induced Forces
16 February 2022, 14:50 CET
Casimir forces in quantum electrodynamics emerge between microscopic metallic objects because of the confinement of the vacuum electromagnetic fluctuations occuring even at zero temperature. Their generalization at finite temperature and in material media are referred to as Casimir-Lifshitz forces. These forces are typically attractive, leading to the widespread problem of stiction between the metallic parts of micro- and nanodevices. Recently, repulsive Casimir forces have been experimentally realized but their use of specialized materials stills means that the system can not be controlled dynamically and thus limits further implementation to real-world applications. Here, we experimentally demonstrate that repulsive critical Casimir forces, which emerge in a critical binary liquid mixture upon approaching the critical temperature, can be used to prevent stiction due to Casimir-Lifshitz forces. We show that critical Casimir forces can be dynamically tuned via temperature, eventually overcoming Casimir-Lifshitz attraction. We study a microscopic gold flake above a flat gold-coated substrate immersed in a critical mixture. Far from the critical temperature, stiction occurs because of Casimir-Lifshitz forces. Upon approaching the critical temperature, however, we observe the emergence of repulsive critical Casimir forces that are sufficiently strong to counteract stiction. By removing one of the key limitations to their deployment, this experimental demonstration can accelerate the development of micro- and nanodevices for a broad range of applications.
Theoretical and numerical study of the interplay of Casimir-Lifshitz and critical Casimir force for a metallic flake suspended on a metal-coated substrate Agnese Callegari
729. WE-Heraeus Stiftung Seminar on Fluctuation-induced Forces
14 February 2022, 14:50 CET
Casimir-Lifshitz forces arise between uncharged metallic objects because of the confinement of the electromagnetic fluctuations. Typically, these forces are attractive, and they are the main cause of stiction between microscopic metallic parts of micro- and nanodevices. Critical Casimir forces emerge between objects suspended in a critical binary liquid mixture upon approaching the critical temperature, can be made either attractive or repulsive by choosing the appropriate boundary conditions, and dynamically tuned via the temperature.
Experiments show that repulsive critical Casimir forces can be used to prevent stiction due to Casimir-Lifshitz forces. In a recent work, a microscopic metallic flake was suspended in a liquid solution above a metal-coated substrate . By suspending the flake in a binary critical mixture and tuning the temperature we can control the flake’s hovering height above the substrate and, in the case of repulsive critical Casimir forces, prevent stiction.
Here, we present the model for the system of the metallic flake suspended above a metal-coated substrate in a binary critical mixture and show that repulsive critical Casimir forces can effectively counteract Casimir-Lifshitz forces and can be used to control dynamically the height of the flake above the surface. This provides a validation of the experimental results and a base to explore and design the behavior of similar systems in view of micro- and nanotechnological applications.
 F. Schmidt, A. Callegari, A. Daddi-Moussa-Ider, B. Munkhbat, R. Verre, T. Shegai, M. Käll, H. Löwen, A. Gambassi and G. Volpe, to be submitted (2022)
Microscopic Metavehicles Powered and Steered by Embedded Optical Metasurfaces
Daniel Andrén, Denis G. Baranov, Steven Jones, Giovanni Volpe, Ruggero Verre, Mikael Käll
Nat. Nanotechnol. (2021)
Nanostructured dielectric metasurfaces offer unprecedented opportunities to manipulate light by imprinting an arbitrary phase gradient on an impinging wavefront. This has resulted in the realization of a range of flat analogues to classical optical components, such as lenses, waveplates and axicons. However, the change in linear and angular optical momentum associated with phase manipulation also results in previously unexploited forces and torques that act on the metasurface itself. Here we show that these optomechanical effects can be utilized to construct optical metavehicles – microscopic particles that can travel long distances under low-intensity plane-wave illumination while being steered by the polarization of the incident light. We demonstrate movement in complex patterns, self-correcting motion and an application as transport vehicles for microscopic cargoes, which include unicellular organisms. The abundance of possible optical metasurfaces attests to the prospect of developing a wide variety of metavehicles with specialized functional behaviours.
Dynamics of an Active Nanoparticle in an Optical Trap Falko Schmidt, Hana Sipova-Jungova, Mikael Käll, Alois Würger, Giovanni Volpe
Submitted as OSA-OMA-2021, AF1D.2 Contribution Date: 16 April Time: 12:30 CEST
We investigate a nanoparticle inside an optical trap and driven away from equilibrium by self-induced concentration gradients. We find that a nanoparticle performs fast orbital rotations and its probability density shifting away from equilibrium.
Non-equilibrium properties of an active nanoparticle in a harmonic potential
Falko Schmidt, Hana Šípová-Jungová, Mikael Käll, Alois Würger & Giovanni Volpe
Nature Communications 12, 1902 (2021)
Active particles break out of thermodynamic equilibrium thanks to their directed motion, which leads to complex and interesting behaviors in the presence of confining potentials. When dealing with active nanoparticles, however, the overwhelming presence of rotational diffusion hinders directed motion, leading to an increase of their effective temperature, but otherwise masking the effects of self-propulsion. Here, we demonstrate an experimental system where an active nanoparticle immersed in a critical solution and held in an optical harmonic potential features far-from-equilibrium behavior beyond an increase of its effective temperature. When increasing the laser power, we observe a cross-over from a Boltzmann distribution to a non-equilibrium state, where the particle performs fast orbital rotations about the beam axis. These findings are rationalized by solving the Fokker-Planck equation for the particle’s position and orientation in terms of a moment expansion. The proposed self-propulsion mechanism results from the particle’s non-sphericity and the lower critical point of the solute.