We report on the capillary-driven leveling of a topographical perturbation at the surface of a freestanding liquid nanofilm. The width of a stepped surface profile is found to evolve as the square root of time. The hydrodynamic model is in excellent agreement with the experimental data. In addition to exhibiting an analogy with diffusive processes, this novel system serves as a precise nanoprobe for the rheology of liquids at interfaces in a configuration that avoids substrate effects.


We report on the design, construction, and characterisation of a new class of in-vacuo optical levitation trap optimised for use in high-intensity, high-energy laser interaction experiments. The system uses a focused, vertically propagating continuous wave laser beam to capture and manipulate micro-targets by photon momentum transfer at much longer working distances than commonly used by optical tweezer systems. A high speed (10 kHz) optical imaging and signal acquisition system was implemented for tracking the levitated droplets position and dynamic behaviour under atmospheric and vacuum conditions, with ±5 μm spatial resolution. Optical trapping of 10 ± 4 μm oil droplets in vacuum was demonstrated, over timescales of >1 h at extended distances of ~40 mm from the final focusing optic. The stability of the levitated droplet was such that it would stay in alignment with a ~7 μm irradiating beam focal spot for up to 5 min without the need for re-adjustment. The performance of the trap was assessed in a series of high-intensity (\(10^{17}\) W cm) laser experiments that measured the X-ray source size and inferred free-electron temperature of a single isolated droplet target, along with a measurement of the emitted radio-frequency pulse. These initial tests demonstrated the use of optically levitated microdroplets as a robust target platform for further high-intensity laser interaction and pointsourcestudies.


We report on how the relaxation of patterns prepared on a thin film can be controlled by manipulating the symmetry of the initial shape. The validity of a lubrication theory for the capillary-driven relaxation of surface profiles is verified by atomic force microscopy measurements, performed on films that were patterned using focused laser spike annealing. In particular, we observe that the shape of the surface profile at late times is entirely determined by the initial symmetry of the perturbation, in agreement with the theory. The results have relevance in the dynamical control of topographic perturbations for nanolithography and high density memory storage.


We propose new searches that exploit the unique signatures of decaying sterile neutrinos with masses below MW at the LHC, where they can be produced in rare decays of Standard Model gauge bosons. We show that, for few-GeV-scale sterile neutrinos, the LHC experiments can probe mixing angles at the level of \( 10^{-4} \)–\( 10^{-3} \) through powerful searches that look for a prompt lepton in association with a displaced lepton jet. For higher-mass sterile neutrinos, i.e., \( M_N \overset{>}{\sim} 15 \, \mathrm{GeV} \), run II can explore similarly small mixing angles in prompt multilepton final states. This represents an improvement of up to 2 orders of magnitude in sensitivity to the sterile neutrino production rate.


We probe the viscous relaxation of structured liquid droplets in the partial wetting regime using a diblock copolymer system. The relaxation time of the droplets is measured after a step change in temperature as a function of three tunable parameters: droplet size, equilibrium contact angle, and the viscosity of the fluid. Contrary to what is typically observed, the late-stage relaxation time does not scale with the radius of the droplet-rather, relaxation scales with the radius squared. Thus, the energy dissipation depends on the contact area of the droplet, rather than the contact line.


We propose a practical scheme to use photons from causally disconnected cosmic sources to set the detectors in an experimental test of Bells inequality. In current experiments, with settings determined by quantum random number generators, only a small amount of correlation between detector settings and local hidden variables, established less than a millisecond before each experiment, would suffice to mimic the predictions of quantum mechanics. By setting the detectors using pairs of quasars or patches of the cosmic microwave background, observed violations of Bells inequality would require any such coordination to have existed for billions of yearsan improvement of 20 orders of magnitude.


We investigate the dewetting of a disordered melt of diblock copolymer from an ordered residual wetting layer. In contrast to simple liquids where the wetting layer has a fixed thickness and the droplets exhibit a single unique contact angle with the substrate, we find that structured liquids of diblock copolymer exhibit a discrete series of wetting layer thicknesses each producing a different contact angle. These quantized contact angles arise because the substrate and air surfaces each induce a gradient of lamellar order in the wetting layer. The interaction between the two surface profiles creates an effective interface potential that oscillates with film thickness, thus, producing a sequence of local minimums. The wetting layer thicknesses and corresponding contact angles are a direct measure of the positions and depths of these minimums Self-consistent field theory is shown to provide qualitative agreement with the experiment.


We show that the existence of new, light gauge interactions coupled to Standard Model (SM) neutrinos gives rise to an abundance of sterile neutrinos through the sterile neutrinos’ mixing with the SM. Specifically, in the mass range of MeV–GeV and coupling of \( g' \sim 10^{-6} \)–\( 10^{-3} \), the decay of this new vector boson in the early Universe produces a sufficient quantity of sterile neutrinos to account for the observed dark matter abundance. Interestingly, this can be achieved within a natural extension of the SM gauge group, such as a gauged \( L_{\mu} \) − \( L_{\tau} \) number, without any tree-level coupling between the new vector boson and the sterile neutrino states. Such new leptonic interactions might also be at the origin of the well-known discrepancy associated with the anomalous magnetic moment of the muon.

Recent Publications

Student authorFaculty author    


Mark Ilton, Miles M. P. Couchman, Cedric Gerbelot, Michael Benzaquen, Paul D. Fowler, Howard A. Stone, Elie Raphael, Kari Dalnoki-Veress, and Thomas Salez

Capillary Leveling of Freestanding Liquid Nanofilms

Physical Review Letters 117 (2016) .
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C. J. Price, Thomas D. Donnelly, S. Giltrap, N. H. Stuart, S. Parker, S. Patankar, H. F. Lowe, D. Drew, E. T. Gumbrell, and R. A. Smith

An in-vacuo optical levitation trap for high-intensity laser interaction experiments with isolated microtargets

Review of Scientific Instruments 86 (2015) 033502.
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RSI Donnelly 2015

Michael Benzaquen, Mark Ilton, Michael V. Massa, Thomas Salez, Paul Fowler, Elie Raphael, and Kari Dalnoki-Veress

Symmetry plays a key role in the erasing of patterned surface features

Applied Physics Letters 107 (2015) .

Eder Izaguirre and Brian Shuve

Multilepton and Lepton Jet Probes of Sub-Weak-Scale Right-Handed Neutrinos

Physical Review D 91 (2015) 093010.
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Mark Ilton, Oliver Baeumchen, and Kari Dalnoki-Veress

Onset of Area-Dependent Dissipation in Droplet Spreading

Physical Review Letters 115 (2015) .

Jason Gallicchio, Andrew S. Friedman, and David I. Kaiser

Testing Bell’s Inequality with Cosmic Photons: Closing the Setting-Independence Loophole

Physical Review Letters 112 (2014) 195.
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Mark Ilton, Pawel Stasiak, Mark W. Matsen, and Kari Dalnoki-Veress

Quantized Contact Angles in the Dewetting of a Structured Liquid

Physical Review Letters 112 (2014) 068303.
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Alanna L. Sugarman, Nathaniel J. Bean, Theodore B. DuBose, Elizabeth Orwin, and Richard Campbell Haskell

Physical Attributes and Assembly of PEG-linked Immuno-labeled Gold Nanoparticles for OCM Image Contrast in Tissue Engineering and Developmental Biology

Optical Coherence Tomography and Coherence Domain Optical Methods in Biomedicine XVIII 8934 (2014) 89342V.

Luke St. Marie, Fangzhao Alex An, Anthony L. Corso, John T. Grasel, and Richard Campbell Haskell

Robust, Real-time, Digital Focusing for FD-OCM using ISAM on a GPU

Optical Coherence Tomography and Coherence Domain Optical Methods in Biomedicine XVIII 8934 (2014) 89342V.

Brian Shuve and Itay Yavin

Dark Matter Progenitor: Light Vector Boson Decay into Sterile Neutrinos

Physical Review D 89 (2014) 113004.
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