headshot of Uttam Manna

Uttam Manna

Studying how light interacts with very small things has landed the work of Illinois State University’s Uttam Manna on the cover of an international physics journal.

An assistant professor of physics, Manna oversees a lab at Illinois State conducting cutting-edge experimental research to confine energy from nanoparticles. His recent work on dielectric nanoparticles graces the cover of the Journal of Applied Physics.

For perspective, a meter is about 39 inches tall, a little shorter than the height of a mailbox pole. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. So, it is very, very, very small.

The article by Manna and his team of students explores how the light and matter interact when materials get smaller—much smaller.

drawing of a cylinder and ball with arrows

Illustration of the “optical switch” designed by Dr. Uttam Manna’s lab.

“When light interacts with matter a few things can happen—the light can be transmitted, reflected, absorbed, scattered, etc.,” said Manna, whose work was awarded the University’s first National Science Foundation (NSF) for experimental physics. “The interaction of matter with light is fundamentally altered when the dimension of the materials is shrunk down to a few tens of nanometers.”

Manna and students developed what he calls an “optical switch” that can selectively turn on and off some of the resonances—or attributes—of when light hits a nano-object. The switch will allow scientists to probe complex interactions. “Our approach could be used as a versatile tool allowing advanced optical devices with tunable properties,” said Manna.

The article, titled “Selective excitation and enhancement of multipolar resonances in dielectric nanospheres using cylindrical vector beams,” is part of the January 2020 issue of the Journal of Applied Physics.