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2013


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Hybrid nanocolloids with programmed three-dimensional shape and material composition

Mark, A. G., Gibbs, J. G., Lee, T., Fischer, P.

NATURE MATERIALS, 12(9):802-807, 2013, Max Planck Press Release. (article)

Abstract
Tuning the optical(1,2), electromagnetic(3,4) and mechanical properties of a material requires simultaneous control over its composition and shape(5). This is particularly challenging for complex structures at the nanoscale because surface-energy minimization generally causes small structures to be highly symmetric(5). Here we combine low-temperature shadow deposition with nanoscale patterning to realize nanocolloids with anisotropic three-dimensional shapes, feature sizes down to 20 nm and a wide choice of materials. We demonstrate the versatility of the fabrication scheme by growing three-dimensional hybrid nanostructures that contain several functional materials with the lowest possible symmetry, and by fabricating hundreds of billions of plasmonic nanohelices, which we use as chiral metafluids with record circular dichroism and tunable chiroptical properties.

Max Planck Press Release.

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Video - Fabrication of Designer Nanostructures DOI [BibTex]


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Chiral Colloidal Molecules And Observation of The Propeller Effect

Schamel, D., Pfeifer, M., Gibbs, J. G., Miksch, B., Mark, A. G., Fischer, P.

JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, 135(33):12353-12359, 2013 (article)

Abstract
Chiral molecules play an important role in biological and chemical processes, but physical effects due to their symmetry-breaking are generally weak. Several physical chiral separation schemes which could potentially be useful, including the propeller effect, have therefore not yet been demonstrated at the molecular scale. However, it has been proposed that complex nonspherical colloidal particles could act as ``colloidal molecules{''} in mesoscopic model systems to permit the visualization of molecular phenomena that are otherwise difficult to observe. Unfortunately, it is difficult to synthesize such colloids because surface minimization generally favors the growth of symmetric particles. Here we demonstrate the production of large numbers of complex colloids with glancing angle physical vapor deposition. We use chiral colloids to demonstrate the Baranova and Zel'dovich (Baranova, N. B.; Zel'dovich, B. Y. Chem. Phys. Lett. 1978, 57, 435) propeller effect: the separation of a racemic mixture by application of a rotating field that couples to the dipole moment of the enantiomers and screw propels them in opposite directions. The handedness of the colloidal suspensions is monitored with circular differential light scattering. An exact solution for the colloid's propulsion is derived, and comparisons between the colloidal system and the corresponding effect at the molecular scale are made.

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Video - Nanospropellers DOI [BibTex]

Video - Nanospropellers DOI [BibTex]


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Indirect absorption spectroscopy using quantum cascade lasers: mid-infrared refractometry and photothermal spectroscopy

Pfeifer, M., Ruf, A., Fischer, P.

OPTICS EXPRESS, 21(22):25643-25654, 2013 (article)

Abstract
We record vibrational spectra with two indirect schemes that depend on the real part of the index of refraction: mid-infrared refractometry and photothermal spectroscopy. In the former, a quantum cascade laser (QCL) spot is imaged to determine the angles of total internal reflection, which yields the absorption line via a beam profile analysis. In the photothermal measurements, a tunable QCL excites vibrational resonances of a molecular monolayer, which heats the surrounding medium and changes its refractive index. This is observed with a probe laser in the visible. Sub-monolayer sensitivities are demonstrated. (C) 2013 Optical Society of America

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DOI [BibTex]


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Plasmonic nanohelix metamaterials with tailorable giant circular dichroism

Gibbs, J. G., Mark, A. G., Eslami, S., Fischer, P.

APPLIED PHYSICS LETTERS, 103(21), 2013, Featured cover article. (article)

Abstract
Plasmonic nanohelix arrays are shown to interact with electromagnetic fields in ways not typically seen with ordinary matter. Chiral metamaterials (CMMs) with feature sizes small with respect to the wavelength of visible light are a promising route to experimentally achieve such phenomena as negative refraction without the need for simultaneously negative e and mu. Here we not only show that giant circular dichroism in the visible is achievable with hexagonally arranged plasmonic nanohelix arrays, but that we can precisely tune the optical activity via morphology and lattice spacing. The discrete dipole approximation is implemented to support experimental data. (C) 2013 AIP Publishing LLC.

Featured cover article.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Optimal distribution of contact forces with inverse-dynamics control

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Mistry, M., Kalakrishnan, M., Schaal, S.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 32(3):280-298, March 2013 (article)

Abstract
The development of legged robots for complex environments requires controllers that guarantee both high tracking performance and compliance with the environment. More specifically the control of the contact interaction with the environment is of crucial importance to ensure stable, robust and safe motions. In this contribution we develop an inverse-dynamics controller for floating-base robots under contact constraints that can minimize any combination of linear and quadratic costs in the contact constraints and the commands. Our main result is the exact analytical derivation of the controller. Such a result is particularly relevant for legged robots as it allows us to use torque redundancy to directly optimize contact interactions. For example, given a desired locomotion behavior, we can guarantee the minimization of contact forces to reduce slipping on difficult terrains while ensuring high tracking performance of the desired motion. The main advantages of the controller are its simplicity, computational efficiency and robustness to model inaccuracies. We present detailed experimental results on simulated humanoid and quadruped robots as well as a real quadruped robot. The experiments demonstrate that the controller can greatly improve the robustness of locomotion of the robots.1

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Controlled Reduction with Unactuated Cyclic Variables: Application to 3D Bipedal Walking with Passive Yaw Rotation

Gregg, R., Righetti, L.

IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 58(10):2679-2685, October 2013 (article)

Abstract
This technical note shows that viscous damping can shape momentum conservation laws in a manner that stabilizes yaw rotation and enables steering for underactuated 3D walking. We first show that unactuated cyclic variables can be controlled by passively shaped conservation laws given a stabilizing controller in the actuated coordinates. We then exploit this result to realize controlled geometric reduction with multiple unactuated cyclic variables. We apply this underactuated control strategy to a five-link 3D biped to produce exponentially stable straight-ahead walking and steering in the presence of passive yawing.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2006


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Chiral molecules split light: Reflection and refraction in a chiral liquid

Ghosh, A., Fischer, P.

PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS, 97(17), 2006, Featured highlight ‘Fundamental optical physics: Refraction’ Nature Photonics, Nov. 2006. (article)

Abstract
A light beam changes direction as it enters a liquid at an angle from another medium, such as air. Should the liquid contain molecules that lack mirror symmetry, then it has been predicted by Fresnel that the light beam will not only change direction, but will actually split into two separate beams with a small difference in the respective angles of refraction. Here we report the observation of this phenomenon. We also demonstrate that the angle of reflection does not equal the angle of incidence in a chiral medium. Unlike conventional optical rotation, which depends on the path-length through the sample, the reported reflection and refraction phenomena arise within a few wavelengths at the interface and thereby suggest a new approach to polarimetry that can be used in microfluidic volumes.

Featured highlight ‘Fundamental optical physics: Refraction’ Nature Photonics, Nov. 2006.

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DOI [BibTex]

2006


DOI [BibTex]


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Direct chiral discrimination in NMR spectroscopy

Buckingham, A., Fischer, P.

CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 324(1):111-116, 2006 (article)

Abstract
Conventional nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy is unable to distinguish between the two mirror-image forms (enantiomers) of a chiral molecule. This is because the NMR spectrum is determined by the chemical shifts and spin-spin coupling constants which - in the absence of a chiral solvent - are identical for the two enantiomers. We discuss how chirality may nevertheless be directly detected in liquid-state NMR spectroscopy: In a chiral molecule, the rotating nuclear magnetic moment induces an electric dipole moment in the direction perpendicular to itself and to the permanent magnetic field of the spectrometer. We present computations of the precessing electric polarization following a pi/2 pulse. Our estimates indicate that the electric polarization should be detectable in favourable cases. We also predict that application of an electrostatic field induces a chirally sensitive magnetization oscillating in the direction of the permanent magnetic field. We show that the electric-field-perturbed chemical shift tensor, the nuclear magnetic shielding polarizability, underlies these chiral NMR effects. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Ring-resonator-based frequency-domain optical activity measurements of a chiral liquid

Vollmer, F., Fischer, P.

OPTICS LETTERS, 31(4):453-455, 2006 (article)

Abstract
Chiral liquids rotate the plane of polarization of linearly polarized light and are therefore optically active. Here we show that optical rotation can be observed in the frequency domain. A chiral liquid introduced in a fiber-loop ring resonator that supports left and right circularly polarized modes gives rise to relative frequency shifts that are a direct measure of the liquid's circular birefringence and hence of its optical activity. The effect is in principle not diminished if the circumference of the ring is reduced. The technique is similarly applicable to refractive index and linear birefringence measurements. (c) 2006 Optical Society of America.

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DOI [BibTex]


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Sign of the refractive index in a gain medium with negative permittivity and permeability

Chen, Y., Fischer, P., Wise, F.

JOURNAL OF THE OPTICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA B-OPTICAL PHYSICS, 23(1):45-50, 2006 (article)

Abstract
We show how the sign of the refractive index in any medium may be derived using a rigorous analysis based on Einstein causality. In particular, we consider left-handed materials, i.e., media that have negative permittivities and permeabilities at the frequency of interest. We find that the consideration of gain in such media can give rise to a positive refractive index. (c) 2006 Optical Society of America.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Dynamic Hebbian learning in adaptive frequency oscillators

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Ijspeert, A.

Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena, 216(2):269-281, 2006 (article)

Abstract
Nonlinear oscillators are widely used in biology, physics and engineering for modeling and control. They are interesting because of their synchronization properties when coupled to other dynamical systems. In this paper, we propose a learning rule for oscillators which adapts their frequency to the frequency of any periodic or pseudo-periodic input signal. Learning is done in a dynamic way: it is part of the dynamical system and not an offline process. An interesting property of our model is that it is easily generalizable to a large class of oscillators, from phase oscillators to relaxation oscillators and strange attractors with a generic learning rule. One major feature of our learning rule is that the oscillators constructed can adapt their frequency without any signal processing or the need to specify a time window or similar free parameters. All the processing is embedded in the dynamics of the adaptive oscillator. The convergence of the learning is proved for the Hopf oscillator, then numerical experiments are carried out to explore the learning capabilities of the system. Finally, we generalize the learning rule to non-harmonic oscillators like relaxation oscillators and strange attractors.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Engineering Entrainment and Adaptation in Limit Cycle Systems – From biological inspiration to applications in robotics

Buchli, J., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

Biological Cybernetics, 95(6):645-664, December 2006 (article)

Abstract
Periodic behavior is key to life and is observed in multiple instances and at multiple time scales in our metabolism, our natural environment, and our engineered environment. A natural way of modeling or generating periodic behavior is done by using oscillators, i.e., dynamical systems that exhibit limit cycle behavior. While there is extensive literature on methods to analyze such dynamical systems, much less work has been done on methods to synthesize an oscillator to exhibit some specific desired characteristics. The goal of this article is twofold: (1) to provide a framework for characterizing and designing oscillators and (2) to review how classes of well-known oscillators can be understood and related to this framework. The basis of the framework is to characterize oscillators in terms of their fundamental temporal and spatial behavior and in terms of properties that these two behaviors can be designed to exhibit. This focus on fundamental properties is important because it allows us to systematically compare a large variety of oscillators that might at first sight appear very different from each other. We identify several specifications that are useful for design, such as frequency-locking behavior, phase-locking behavior, and specific output signal shape. We also identify two classes of design methods by which these specifications can be met, namely offline methods and online methods. By relating these specifications to our framework and by presenting several examples of how oscillators have been designed in the literature, this article provides a useful methodology and toolbox for designing oscillators for a wide range of purposes. In particular, the focus on synthesis of limit cycle dynamical systems should be useful both for engineering and for computational modeling of physical or biological phenomena.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2005


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Nonlinear optical spectroscopy of chiral molecules

Fischer, P., Hache, F.

CHIRALITY, 17(8):421-437, 2005 (article)

Abstract
We review nonlinear optical processes that are specific to chiral molecules in solution and on surfaces. In contrast to conventional natural optical activity phenomena, which depend linearly on the electric field strength of the optical field, we discuss how optical processes that are nonlinear (quadratic, cubic, and quartic) functions of the electromagnetic field strength may probe optically active centers and chiral vibrations. We show that nonlinear techniques open entirely new ways of exploring chirality in chemical and biological systems: The cubic processes give rise to nonlinear circular dichroism and nonlinear optical rotation and make it possible to observe dynamic chiral processes at ultrafast time scales. The quadratic second-harmonic and sum-frequency-generation phenomena and the quartic processes may arise entirely in the electric-dipole approximation and do not require the use of circularly polarized light to detect chirality: They provide surface selectivity and their observables can be relatively much larger than in linear optical activity. These processes also give rise to the generation of light at a new color, and in liquids this frequency conversion only occurs if the solution is optically active. We survey recent chiral nonlinear optical experiments and give examples of their application to problems of biophysical interest. (C) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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DOI [BibTex]

2005


DOI [BibTex]


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Negative refraction at optical frequencies in nonmagnetic two-component molecular media

Chen, Y., Fischer, P., Wise, F.

PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS, 95(6), 2005 (article)

Abstract
There is significant motivation to develop media with negative refractive indices at optical frequencies, but efforts in this direction are hampered by the weakness of the magnetic response at such frequencies. We show theoretically that a nonmagnetic medium with two atomic or molecular constituents can exhibit a negative refractive index. A negative index is possible even when the real parts of both the permittivity and permeability are positive. This surprising result provides a route to isotropic negative-index media at optical frequencies.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]