"Nanoscale optics and photonics: from the zero-point energy to photovoltaics"

Jeremy N. Munday, Thomas J Watson Laboratories of Applied Physics, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA

March 2nd (Wednesday), 11:00am
Harold Frank Hall (HFH), Rm 4164

The interaction of light and matter is pervasive and governs many physical processes from atomic transitions to optoelectronic devices. As device dimensions become comparable to the wavelength of visible light, both quantum effects and optical waveguiding become important. In this talk, I will present two topics related to nanoscale optics. First, I will discuss the Casimir force, which results from the quantum mechanical behavior of light fields in vacuum. I will describe experiments in which we tailored this interaction between solid materials to achieve both attractive and repulsive nanoscale forces. Second, I will discuss the role of nanoscale optics in next generation photovoltaics. Counterintuitively, optically thin solar cells can outperform bulk cells if effective light collection is achieved. I will describe design principles necessary for creating world record solar cell efficiencies while using less semiconducting material through the use of photonic and plasmonic structures. Finally, perspectives on controlling quantum processes and nanoscale optics for future energy harvesting techniques will be discussed.

About Jeremy N. Munday:

Jeremy Munday received his BS in Physics and Astronomy from Middle Tennessee State University in 2003 and his PhD in Physics from Harvard in 2008. His thesis work focused on the first experimental demonstration of a repulsive Casimir force and was conducted under the supervision of Federico Capasso. He is currently a Postdoctoral Scholar in the group of Harry Atwater at Caltech working on photovoltaic devices and has published papers in fields including acoustics, electronics, superluminal effects, QED phenomena, plasmonics, and solar cells.

Hosted by: Professor John Bowers