Designing fluctuation-induced interactions in microstructured geometries
Speaker: Alejandro Rodriguez, PhD
Series: Electrical Engineering Departmental Seminar
Location: Engineering Quadrangle B205
Date/Time: Wednesday, February 20, 2013, 4:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Quantum and thermal fluctuations of charges in otherwise neutral bodies lead to a wide range of phenomena of increasing importance to the design and operation of micro- and nano-scale devices. Casimir forces, a generalization of van der Waals forces between molecules, are fluctuation-induced interactions between macroscopic bodies whose attractive nature and increasing strength with decreasing object separations contribute to stiction in micro- and nano-electromechanical systems. The same fluctuations lead to radiative heat transfer between disconnected bodies held at unequal temperatures, a phenomenon at the heart of emerging technologies, such as thermophotovoltaic devices and thermal nano-lithography. In this talk, I will describe how application of computational methods that exploit mature and scalable techniques from classical numerical electromagnetism and nanophotonics are paving the way for the study of designable fluctuation interactions in microstructured geometries. I will specifically focus on a recent method for modeling near-field radiative heat transfer between wavelength-scale bodies of arbitrary shape based on the surface integral formulation of classical electromagnetism, and discuss various applications.
Dr. Alejandro Rodriguez is a joint postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and at the MIT Department of Mathematics, working primarily on problems involving nanophotonics, or the study of electromagnetism in wavelength-scale structures. His contributions to this field include the development of new computational methods aimed at modeling quasiperiodic structures (photonic quasicrystals), microcavity nonlinear interactions, macroscopic forces arising from quantum fluctuations, and radiative heat transport, as well as the analysis and design of practical devices based on such phenomena. These include novel microfluidic suspensions, efficient micron-scale nonlinear frequency converters operating at both the classical and quantum levels, and new kinds of optomechanical as well as thermophotovoltaic devices. When he is not playing with photons, Alejandro enjoys teaching and motivating young students to pursue careers in science and engineering. In addition to spending numerous summers teaching the physics of waves and vibrations to talented high school students as an instructor in the MIT MITES program, he has served as the professional advisor of the Harvard Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists, and has been prominently featured in various promotional videos aimed at increasing the number of underrepresented minorities in science and engineering. Dr. Rodriguez has over 40 publications and 4 patents. A native of Cuba, Alejandro emigrated to the US at the age of 12 whence he settled in Miami, Florida. He completed his BA in Physics from MIT in 2006 and his PhD in Physics also from MIT under the under the supervision of John D. Joannopoulos and Steven G. Johnson. In addition to receiving an APS Minority Physics Scholarship and the MIT Orloff award for Service in Physics as an undergraduate, Dr. Rodriguez was a Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellow from 2006-2010, and was a recipient of the DOE 2010 Fredrick Howes Award in Computational Science.