Random media, optical sensing, optics, electromagnetism


Mesoscale optical phenomena occur when light interacts with a number of different types of materials, such as biological and chemical systems and fabricated nanostructures. As a framework, mesoscale optics unifies the interpretations of the interaction of light with complex media when the outcome depends significantly upon the scale of the interaction. Most importantly, it guides the process of designing an optical sensing technique by focusing on the nature and amount of information that can be extracted from a measurement. Different aspects of mesoscale optics are addressed in this dissertation which led to the solution of a number of problems in complex media. Dynamical and structural information from complex fluids—such as colloidal suspensions and biological fluids—was obtained by controlling the size of the interaction volume with low coherence interferometry. With this information, material properties such as particle sizes, optical transport coefficients, and viscoelastic characteristics of polymer solutions and blood were determined in natural, realistic conditions that are inaccessible to conventional techniques. The same framework also enabled the development of new, scale-dependent models for several important physical and biological systems. These models were then used to explain the results of some unique measurements. For example, the transport of light in disordered photonic lattices was interpreted as a scale-dependent, diffusive process to explain the anomalous behavior of photon path length distributions through these complex structures. In addition, it was demonstrated how specialized optical measurements and models at the mesoscale enable solutions to fundamental problems in cell biology. Specifically, it was found for the first time that the nature of cell motility changes markedly with the curvature of the substrate that the cells iv move on. This particular work addresses increasingly important questions concerning the nature of cellular responses to external forces and the mechanical properties of their local environment. Besides sensing of properties and modeling behaviors of complex systems, mesoscale optics encompasses the control of material systems as a result of the light-matter interaction. Specific modifications to a material’s structure can occur due to not only an exchange of energy between radiation and a material, but also due to a transfer of momentum. Based on the mechanical action of multiply scattered light on colloidal particles, an optically-controlled active medium that did not require specially tailored particles was demonstrated for the first time. The coupling between the particles and the random electromagnetic field affords new possibilities for controlling mesoscale systems and observing nonequilibrium thermodynamic phenomena.


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Graduation Date





Dogariu, Aristide


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Optics and Photonics


Optics and Photonics

Degree Program









Release Date

December 2014

Length of Campus-only Access

1 year

Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Optics and Photonics, Optics and Photonics -- Dissertations, Academic