Optical Physics and Devices

Faculty in this Research Area

The Applied Physics optics research effort aims at understanding and controlling linear and nonlinear optical processes, and their interactions with modern nanostructured optical media and metamaterials. Classical optical physics has experienced a renaissance in the 21st century due to the ability to create materials with optical properties not found in nature, such as photonic crystals, high-Q microcavities, negative index metamaterials, and opto-plasmonic microstructures. Such materials allow the manipulation of photon propagation and localization in nanostructures, giving rise to new sensing, imaging and communications approaches, with important applications to bioimaging and biosensing, as well as light harvesting in solar cells.

The Yale group has particular expertise in novel and complex laser systems. The experimental group of Hui Cao has discovered a new class of “random lasers”1 and, in collaboration with the theory group of A. D. Stone, pioneered the theory of their lasing modes.2 Current work extends these concepts to deterministic aperiodic structures with unique modal properties useful for biosensing. Earlier work by the Stone group introduced a class of novel wave-chaotic Asymmetric Resonant Cavities (ARCs)3 leading to several patented inventions. Another current research direction is the study of structural colors in biological systems, as an example of self-organized functional nanostructures. A related effort looks for novel local probes of materials in soft condensed matter. This work is being done in close collaboration with other faculty in the Engineering, Physics and Biology departments.

Future directions of our efforts will be in the general areas of nanophotonics and metamaterials as well as in further interdisciplinary collaborations with the life sciences and soft condensed matter materials studies.

* Representative image featured in May 2008 issue of Science. (“Strong interactions in multimode random lasers”, H. E. Tureci, L. Ge, S. Rotter and A. D. Stone, Science, Vol 320, p643, May 2, 2008.) The image shows a planar realization of a random laser that is pumped with incoherent light from the top and emits coherent light in random directions. In a random laser, light is confined to a gain medium not by conventional mirrors but by random multiple scattering. It is a 3D rendering of actual calculations, not an artist’s conception. Click here for the full version.

  • 1. H. Cao, “Random lasers: development, features, and applications”, Opt. Photon. News, vol. 16, pp. 24-29, Jan. 2005.
  • 2. H. Tureci, A. D. Stone et al., “Strong interaction in multimode random lasers”, Science, vol. 320, pp 643-46, May, 2008.
  • 3. J. Nockel and A. D. Stone, “Ray and wave chaos in asymmetric resonant optical cavities”,Nature, vol. 385, pp 45-47, January 1997.


October 31, 2016
Our work developing new, general bounds to near-field radiative heat transfer has been highlighted in our SPIE Newsroom article.