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Research Fellows Directory

Ulf Leonhardt

Professor Ulf Leonhardt

Research Fellow


University of St Andrews

Research summary

My research explores connections between geometry and light that are applied for invisibility devices, perfect imaging, artificial black holes and quantum levitation. INVISIBILITY has been a subject of fiction for millennia, from myths of the ancient Greeks and Germans to modern novels and films. In 2006 invisibility turned from fiction into science, primarily initiated by the publication of first ideas for cloaking devices and the subsequent demonstration of cloaking for microwaves. I have been one of people starting this research area and now investigate ideas for broadband invisibility that may turn invisibility from science into technology. PERFECT IMAGING is the ability to optically transfer images with a resolution not limited by the wave nature of light. Advances in imaging are of significant importance to modern electronics, because the structures of microchips are made by photolithography; in order to make smaller structures, light with increasingly smaller wavelength is used, which is increasingly difficult. I am working on ideas and collaborating with experimentalists on implementations of perfect image transfer. BLACK HOLES are surrounded by horizons that create quantum particles from the virtual particles of the quantum vacuum, Hawking radiation. Understanding and testing this mysterious phenomenon may shed light on connections between quantum physics and general relativity, but the quantum radiation of horizons has remained elusive so far. I am managing an experimental project for observing Hawking radiation in the laboratory. The physics of the quantum vacuum also appears in the forces that cause small things to stick. QUANTUM LEVITATION explores ideas for turning the force of the quantum vacuum into a repulsive force, which may be important for nano-machines and for creating non-sticky surfaces for biomedical applications. Here I am investigating both the theoretical foundations of quantum forces and ideas for applications.

Grants awarded

Geometry of light: invisibility, quantum forces and artificial black holes

Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards

Dates: Apr 2008 - Mar 2013

Value: £100,000