Published: 5 September 2020, 09:02 | By: Till Bayer, translation Christian Helgert.
Many technologies that determine our everyday life today would be inconceivable without control over light. For example, fast internet because is only possible with the help of glass fibers which transmit data packets as light pulses from A to B. The scientific branch of photonics of ACP principal scientist Prof. Dr. Isabelle Staude will be of central importance for technological progress in the 21st century. Isa Staude develops the smallest photonic structures - including so-called nanofilms - in order to bring light into a tailor-made form. The 38-year-old scientist recently was appointed full professor for photonic nanomaterials at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena.
"Light particles have neither a charge nor a rest mass and are therefore difficult to control," explains Isabelle Staude. "This is where our artificially produced nanofilms come into play, with which we can, for example, determine how much light is emitted in which direction." This is enabled by the tiny antennas from which the nanofilms are made. Just like the interaction of conventional antennas with radio waves, light as an electromagnetic wave can induce electrical currents in the nano-antennas. Depending on how and from what material the antennas are constructed, nanofilms can deflect, focus or change light's properties. In order to be able to receive the light waves with the antennas, they have to be very small and must not exceed a size of a few hundred nanometers. A major challenge is therefore to fabricate materials in this small size at all, preferably dielectrics. But the great effort is worth it: Nanofilms could one day use conventional optical components, e.g. lenses, replace. "They not only have a higher functionality, but are also much thinner and lighter," explains the Jena physicist. "They could be used in displays, sensors or microscopy, to name just a few application examples."
Isa Staude came across her research topic almost by chance. During her studies in Konstanz, she was mainly interested in elementary particle physics. Then she came into contact with nanophotonics, which was less known at the time, during a research internship in South Korea - and stayed with it. "I was immediately enthusiastic about it," recalls the native of Frankfurt. "I particularly liked the fact that I can oversee the entire research process and be creative myself." In 2011, she received her doctorate on three-dimensional nanostructures at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and then moved to Australia for three years to research at the Australian National University in Canberra. In parallel to her doctorate, she completed a degree in economics at the University of Hagen.
In 2015, Isa Staude was awarded a junior group leader fellowship at the Abbe Center of Photonics, supported financed by the Thuringian ProExcellence program. In addition to her research, Isa Staude is very engaged in teaching. "I want to infect the students with my own fascination for nanophotonics,” explains the physicist. "You should get to know practical research early on in your studies and be related to current research topics."