Our Research

While we work on many active ideas, the following are some of the current research at SSL:

1. Micro-Optomechanical Systems

Small Systems Laboratory is one of the first laboratories to pioneer the area of micro-opto-mechanical systems. We have reported many micro-optics and micro-optomechanical devices based on carbon nanotubes, graphene and transition metal dichalcogenides. The following are set of videos that was developed at SSL by past graduate students.

Video 1: Micro-Gripper: Carbon Nanotube based Photomechanical Actuators for Grippers Video 2: Micro-Gripper: Optical Microgripper Manipulating 10 Micron Size Spheres Video 3: Precise Macroscopic Gripper based Only On Light Induced Movements Video 4: Light Induced Movements in Graphene Video 5: Micro-Optics; Polarization Microscopy of Highly Oriented Nanotube Films



2. Nanotube-CTC-Chip for detection, capture and isolation of circulating tumor cells.

In this project we are developing nanotube-CTC-Chip for the rapid and label-free capture of breast cancer cells spiked in blood. Our recent results show this is a new philosophy of using droplet based isolation of CTCs using micro-arrays is a new philosophy.


Figure presents the “nanotube-CTC-Chip” that uses micro-arrays to analyze droplets of blood to capture CTCs. (Courtesy: 2016 Nanotechnology 27 44LT03)




3. 2-D Nanomaterials

SSL is actively pursuing research in the area of 2D nanomaterials such as graphene and Transition Metal Dichalcogenides. We are the first group to demonstrate chromatic mechanical response in TMDs and our work paves the way for how to use TMDs for host of energy applications.


Figure presents the structure of Mos2: (a)Crystal structure of MoS2: S atoms in gold and Mo in black with unit cell parameter a and b, (b) top view of a single-layer MoS2 structure in honeycomb shape; (c) HRTEM of 2H-MoS2 (top insert is the Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) image showing the planes; slight distortion is due to the tilting of the flake in the TEM; a1, a2 and a3 presented HRTEM image is the Mo-Mo interatomic distance of 2.8 Å for 2H-MoS2  (d-e) schematic of the indirect electron transition in bulk MoS2 and direct electron transition in single layer MoS2 respectively. (Taken from Rahneshin V et al., Scientific Reports, 6 34831).

4. Transformable Composites

SSL is actively researching on materials that can transform on an external stimuli. These are class of responsive materials with the ability to unidirectionally transform their physical dimensions, elastic modulus, density, and electrical resistance.

Figure presents the class of materials that can change size, density, area, mechanical properties by simple heating (Taken from Loomis et al., Nanotechnology 24 (18) 2013.)

5. Additive Manufacturing

SSL is actively working on Additive Manufacturing such as 3-D printing. These include technologies such as technologies including subsets like 3D Printing, Rapid Prototyping, Digital Manufacturing, layered manufacturing, vacuum-liquid manufacturing, ink-jet printing and additive casting. At SSL we are focusing on 3-D printing, layer by layer manufacturing, and ink-jet printing and vacuum-liquid nanomanufacturing.

Figure is an example of aligned carbon nanotubes using vacuum-liquid based nanomanufacturing. Vacuum and liquid based additive manufacturing process is highly useful for nanomaterials as most nanomaterials can be dispersed in liquids and where one can make films of such highly oriented nanotubes for transistor applications (courtesy: Fan, Nanotechnology 2014, 25 (35) 355501)

6. Nanopositioning based on Photomechanical Actuation

SSL was the world’s first group to make an all optical nanopositioner that relied on the photomechanical actuation principle of graphene elastomers. The first positioners had 120 nm resolution and was able to position micro-spheres in X and Y direction all using photomechanical actuation principle.

Figure presents the photomechanical actuation principle, nanopositioners and manipulation of microspheres.