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Oct 4 2019

Merging Mechanics and Optics at the Nanoscale: A New Approach to Reconfigurable Systems

ECE 595 Department Seminar Series

October 4, 2019

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM


Lecture Center D5


Chicago, IL 60607

Merging Mechanics and Optics at the Nanoscale: A New Approach to Reconfigurable Systems

Presenter: Daniel López, Argonne National Laboratory


Abstract: The field of micro-mechanics is now a well-established engineering domain with a demonstrated impact on science, technology, and product development. At the core of this technology are movable mechanical structures, known as micro- and nano- electro mechanical systems (MEMS/NEMS), with well- known fabrication processes, response time as fast as microseconds, and elastic properties well described by conventional elasticity theory (Hooke’s law). The dense integration of MEMS and NEMS devices enables the manipulation of multiple physical signals with an unprecedented level of spatial and temporal control.

In recent years, the introduction of metasurfaces has attracted considerable attention due to its ability to shape wavefronts in unprecedented ways. Metasurfaces are sub-wavelength structures that spatially control the phase and amplitude of free-space propagating signals. While metasurfaces have a better spatial resolution than MEMS/NEMS devices, they do not have the ability for time-dependent control offered by micromechanical devices. Consequently, both technologies share common goals and exhibit enough complementary features to suggest that the integration of static nanoscale structures with dynamic platforms like MEMS and NEMS, will generate unique reconfigurable systems for meta-optics, soft-robotics, and wearable devices. This presentation will include an overview of the state-of-the-art in MEMS, NEMS and metasurfaces; describe research and progress in fabricating, measuring and integrating these technologies; and discuss the prospects of using these technologies to produce fully-autonomous micro and nanomachines that interact with their surroundings in a meaningful way.

Presenter bio: López received his PhD in physics from the Instituto Balseiro in Argentina in 1996. After obtaining his PhD, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow at IBM T. J. Watson Research Center, and at the Materials Science Division at Argonne National Lab, researching the field of vortex physics in high-temperature superconductors. In 1999, he joined Bell Laboratories (Murray Hill, NJ) as a full-time Research Staff member, where he started developing micro and nano machines for basic scientific research, optical communications, and imaging. In 2000 López was awarded the Bell Labs President's Gold Award, the highest recognition given at Bell Laboratories, for developing disruptive technologies with direct impact on the business. In 2008 he moved to Argonne National Laboratory where he led the Nanofabrication and Devices group. The group studies the fundamental science behind the development of micro- and nano-scale systems and supports more than 300 users per year, providing technical guidance and access to a 18,000 sq. ft. cleanroom with state-of-the-art nanofabrication equipment and a bio-bay area.

His research career spans many areas, but common themes have been micro- and nano-machines, metasurfaces, and novel materials. Some recent examples of his research include the fabrication of today’s fastest and densest spatial light modulators, the development of methods to improve the performance of oscillators using nonlinear resonators, the most precise characterization of the quantum mechanical Casimir interaction, and the demonstration of optical systems incorporating metasurfaces onto MEMS devices.

López has authored more than 140 technical publications, holds 30 granted and pending patents, and has given invited talks all over the world. He collaborates with the industrial sector and with researchers and educators worldwide.

Faculty Host: Prof. Vitaly Metlushko,


Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Date posted

Oct 8, 2019

Date updated

Oct 8, 2019