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Laser control over crystal nucleation

Objective

The CONTROL programme I propose here is a five-year programme of frontier research to develop a novel platform for the manipulation of phase transitions, crystal nucleation, and polymorph control based on a novel optical-tweezing technique and plasmonics. About 20 years ago, it was shown that lasers can nucleate crystals in super-saturated solution and might even be able to select the polymorph that crystallises. However, no theoretical model was found explaining the results and little progress was made.

In a recent publication (Nat. Chem. 10, 506 (2018)), we showed that laser-induced nucleation can be understood in terms of the harnessing of concentration fluctuations near a liquid–liquid critical point using optical tweezing. This breakthrough opens the way to a research programme with risky, ambitious, and ground-breaking long-term aims: full control over crystal nucleation including chirality and polymorphism.

New optical and microscopic techniques will be developed to allow laser manipulation on a massively parallel scale and chiral nucleation using twisted light. Systematically characterising and manipulating the phase behaviour of mixtures, will allow the use of the optical-tweezing effect to effectively control the crystallisation of small molecules, peptides, proteins, and polymers. Exploiting nanostructures will allow parallelisation on a vast scale and fine control over chirality and polymorph selection through plasmonic tweezing. Even partial success in the five years of the programme will lead to fundamental new insights and technological breakthroughs. These breakthroughs will be exploited for future commercial applications towards the end of the project.

Field of science

  • /natural sciences/physical sciences/optics/laser physics

Call for proposal

ERC-2018-ADG
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-ADG - Advanced Grant

Host institution

UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW
Address
University Avenue
G12 8QQ Glasgow
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 2 488 162

Beneficiaries (1)

UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW
United Kingdom
EU contribution
€ 2 488 162
Address
University Avenue
G12 8QQ Glasgow
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments