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NanoPhotonics Centre

Optically grown bunches of carbon nanotubes

An overview of the group's research into optical growth.

Growing structures at the nanoscale is one of the most difficult and pressing problems holding back  nanotechnology. New ways have to be found to control complex arrangements of different atoms inside materials with novel functionality, avoiding expensive traditional fabrication methods. Using light to control growth is a highly promising new advance.

Current Work


Ge nanowiresOptical growth of Ge nanowires
Laser irradiation and selective absorption is used to locally heat and trigger reactions on individual catalyst nanoparticles in a gaseous precursor atmosphere. Confining light to tiny metallic nanostructures allows us to control and study nanowire growth processes in real-time using optical spectroscopy at the individual nanoparticle level.

Key paper: Di Martino et al., Nano Letters 15, 7452 (2015)


conducting nanobridgeOptical growth of conducting bridges
Confining light to the nanometre scale produces enormous optical forces in nanoscale gaps. We use this to move gold atoms around by light, rewiring plasmons in real time.

Key paper: Mertens et al., Nano Letters (2016)

Previous Work

  Optical Growth of Carbon NanotubesOptical growth of carbon nanotubes
By focussing intense lasers onto nanoparticle catalysts in a thin gas of acetylene, we use light to grow carbon nanotubes selectively at any position on a substrate. This completely new way to grow nanostructures opens up the possibility of delicately controlling growth at the smallest scales.
  Optically Written Arc WaveguidesOptically written arc waveguides Light is normally injected into photonic circuits on a chip from the side, which makes them expensive to make and difficult to align. Using short pulses of light, absorbed two photons at a time, to directly write structures in polymers, we make any shape of optical waveguide that can couple light from the top into any direction.


[2] “Optical feedback mechanisms in laser-induced growth of carbon-nanotube forests”, Appl.Phys.Lett. 100, 013112 (2012)

[1] “Perpendicular coupling to in-plane photonics using arc waveguides,” Appl.Phys.Lett. 100 171102 (2012)


Latest news

NanoPhotonics Centre visited by 533 high school students

28 September 2022

Why do grapes explode in a microwave oven? How does nanostructured chocolate look like? What do nanoparticles on a mirror and Homer Simpson have in common? As part of Physics at Work 2022 , 36 groups of high school students visited our exhibit about plasmonics and nano-optics. Read more here !

IOP news article about recent Sciences Advances paper

22 August 2022

A news article has been written about the recent Sciences Advances paper ' Optical suppression of energy barriers in single molecule-metal binding ' in the IOP optics and photonics research update. Read the article here !

Article featured in Nature Communications Editors’ Highlights

15 July 2022

The recent article 'Hollow-core optical fibre sensors for operando Raman spectroscopy investigation of Li-ion battery liquid electrolytes' has been selected as a featured article in the Nature Communications Editor's highlights. Congratulations to Ermanno and Tijmen! The Editor's highlights can be seen here: https://www...