Nanosuspesions, nonlinearity, polarizability, optical trapping, optical forces, soliton, self trapped beams


One of the most intriguing properties of light-matter interaction is the ability of an electromagnetic field to exert mechanical forces on polarizable objects. This phenomenon is a direct consequence of the fact that light carries momentum, which in turn can be transferred to matter. Mediated by scattering, this interaction usually manifests itself as a “pushing force” in the direction of beam propagation. However, it is possible to judiciously engineer these optical forces, either by tailoring particle polarizability, and/or by structuring the incident light field. As a simple example, a tightly focused laser beam demonstrates strong gradient forces, which may attract and even trap particles with positive polarizability in the focal volume. The opposite occurs in the regime of negative polarizability, where particles are expelled from the regions of highest intensity. Based on this fundamental principle, one can actively shape the beam using spatial light modulators to manipulate individual objects as well as ensembles of particles suspended in a liquid. In the latter case, a modulation of the local particle concentration is associated with changes of the effective refractive index. The result is an artificial nonlinear medium, whose Kerr-type response can be readily tuned by the parameters of its constituent particles. In the course of this work, we introduce a new class of synthetic colloidal suspensions exhibiting negative polarizabilities, and observe for the first time robust propagation and enhanced transmission of self-trapped light over long distances. Such light penetration in strongly scattering environments is enabled by the interplay between optical forces and self-activated transparency effects. We explore various approaches to the design of negative-polarizability arrangements, including purely dielectric as well as metallic and hybrid nanoparticles. In particular, we find that plasmonic resonances allow for extremely high and spectrally tunable polarizabilities, leading to unique nonlinear light-matter interactions. Here, for the first time we were able to observe plasmonic resonant solitons over more than 25 diffraction lengths, in colloidal nanosuspensions.


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Graduation Date





Christodoulides, Demetrios


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Optics and Photonics


Optics and Photonics

Degree Program

Optics and Photonics








Release Date

February 2015

Length of Campus-only Access

1 year

Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)