Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Light and Matter

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
1.02.00  Natural sciences and mathematics  Physics   

Code Science Field
1.03  Natural Sciences  Physical sciences 
Soft matter physics, light-matter interaction, optical properties and processes, liquid crystals, magnetic soft materials, colloidal systems, biomedical optics
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Data for the last 5 years (citations for the last 10 years) on April 11, 2024; A3 for period 2018-2022
Data for ARIS tenders ( 04.04.2019 – Programme tender , archive )
Database Linked records Citations Pure citations Average pure citations
WoS  557  12,315  10,522  18.89 
Scopus  581  14,034  11,990  20.64 
Researchers (17)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  34377  PhD Luka Cmok  Physics  Researcher  2022 - 2024  54 
2.  03470  PhD Martin Čopič  Physics  Retired researcher  2022 - 2024  509 
3.  10373  PhD Irena Drevenšek Olenik  Physics  Head  2022 - 2024  572 
4.  54690  Neža Golmajer Zima  Physics  Junior researcher  2022 - 2024  15 
5.  52045  PhD Žiga Gregorin  Physics  Junior researcher  2022 - 2024  32 
6.  32153  PhD Gašper Kokot  Physics  Researcher  2022 - 2024  63 
7.  55789  Matija Lovšin  Physics  Junior researcher  2022 - 2024  13 
8.  07317  PhD Boris Majaron  Physics  Researcher  2022 - 2024  319 
9.  55006  Peter Medle Rupnik    Technical associate  2022 - 2024  25 
10.  14079  PhD Alenka Mertelj  Physics  Researcher  2022 - 2024  292 
11.  25669  PhD Natan Osterman  Physics  Researcher  2022 - 2024  173 
12.  29538  PhD Andrej Petelin  Physics  Researcher  2022 - 2024  58 
13.  39399  PhD Nerea Sebastian Ugarteche  Physics  Researcher  2022 - 2024  120 
14.  18691  PhD Lea Spindler  Physics  Researcher  2022 - 2024  151 
15.  58113  Izidor Straus  Physics  Junior researcher  2023 - 2024 
16.  18275  PhD Mojca Vilfan  Physics  Researcher  2022 - 2024  159 
17.  05472  PhD Marko Zgonik  Physics  Retired researcher  2022 - 2024  228 
Organisations (2)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0106  Jožef Stefan Institute  Ljubljana  5051606000  90,590 
2.  1554  University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Mathematics and Physics  Ljubljana  1627007  34,059 
The interaction of light with matter is in the forefront of basic research and technologies based on optical processes are indispensable in many branches of modern industry. The latter at present involve predominantly solid-state materials. However, from the perspective of further advancements, soft materials offer a vast horizon of novel possibilities and challenges. In the framework of the proposed project we plan to explore this horizon to gain new fundamental knowledge on light-matter interactions in four different classes of soft matter systems: novel liquid crystalline systems, magnetic soft matter, dynamics of complex fluids, and biomedical optics. In parallel with this, we will also strive to invent and design new technological solutions. The main linking element in our research activities will be investigations of material properties by various optical methods. In the field of liquid crystals, we were recently strongly involved in the discoveries of new polar nematic phases, in particular ferromagnetic and ferroelectric nematic phase, which will also remain an important research subject in the following years. Besides this, we will continue with the development of novel liquid crystalline elastomer and chromonic liquid crystalline systems. We will explore magnetic soft materials consisting of soft matrices functionalised with magnetic fillers. Such materials are very attractive for high-impact technological advances spanning from sensing technologies to biomedical applications and microfluidic actuators. We will investigate three different systems: ferromagnetic nematic liquid crystals, colloidal suspensions of ferromagnetic nanoplatelets, and magnetoactive elastomers. We will study aggregation phenomena and behaviour of colloidal fluids under the influence of external fields. We plan to make a step forward towards more realistic systems that involve colloidal particles of complex shapes and liquid flow in complex geometries. We will combine microfluidic experiments with optical tweezers, via which we will locally control the samples on a micrometre scale. We will also study interface-mediated aggregation of proteins in solutions. With further developing of the cross-differential dynamic microscopy (CDDM) technique, we aim to construct a device capable of efficient measuring of particle size and mobility within microfluidic assays. In biomedical optics research we will continue with non-invasive characterization of biological tissues and organs. We will extend our recently developed method for objective analysis of human skin in-vivo in terms of physiologically relevant parameters and scattering properties of its constitutive layers. We will develop a novel tomographic approach capable of imaging selected structures in biological tissues without ionizing radiation. We will also further develop fluorescent markers for biomedical imaging.
Significance for science
The interaction of light with matter is one of the most important fields of physics. Many of the associated phenomena are at the forefront of basic research. This is partially a consequence of the versatility of optical methods not only in physics but also in chemistry, biology, material sciences, and medicine. The other reason is that technologies based on optical processes are indispensable in many branches of modern industry. The latter at present involve predominantly solid-state materials. However, from the perspective of further technological advancements, soft materials offer a vast horizon of novel possibilities and challenges. Their inherent advantages are relatively low-cost and straightforward fabrication, high flexibility and adaptability, high sensitivity to various external stimuli, and intriguing self-assembling properties. To efficiently explore this attractive new horizon, it is first necessary to gain a thorough fundamental knowledge on light-matter interactions in various soft matter systems. In parallel with this, striving for inventions and the design of new technological solutions should take place. The proposed program will explore four different classes of soft materials and will primarily contribute to fundamental knowledge in the form of publications in internationally recognized scientific journals. We are opening new directions in the field of liquid crystal (LC) research. This field was for a long time driven by the technological importance of LCs for the LCD industry. Now the community is searching for new challenges, new materials, and new applications. By our recent discoveries of new LC phases, we opened a new area of investigation and will continue to contribute substantially to the field. Further investigations will reveal its potential for applications. Also, lyotropic chromonic liquid crystals (CLC) are recently gaining attention because their multilevel complexity results in several new interesting phases and features. G-quadruplex forming oligonucleotides represent a new family in the pool of CLCs, which is at present just in the beginning of the exploration period. The proposed project will therefore make an important pioneering step in promoting this new area of the LC research. We are opening a new research area of polar soft matter. Ferroelectric, ferromagnetic and ferroelastic materials hold a privileged position in condensed matter physics due to their huge technological importance and unique fundamental behaviour. Although ferroelectric nematic LC phase was envisioned a century ago, it was the present-day experimental discovery of the splay nematic phase that allowed studying ferroelectricity in a truly 3D liquid. The combination of ferroelectricity with LC fluidity, giving rise to distinct and technologically relevant electro-optical effects, has enormous potential for applications. Being pioneers in the discovery of the NS phase, we have a privileged starting point and leading role in the development of this research direction. Achievement of stable nanoplatelet suspensions in the splay nematic phase would result in the first example of a liquid multiferroic, in which magnetic properties can be manipulated by electric fields and vice versa. This would undoubtedly be a major breakthrough in soft matter science that will enable both new fundamental research directions and new applications. We are opening new directions in the field of magnetic soft matter. Planned research on ferromagnetic ferrofluids will highly impact the scientific field of ferrofluids by obtaining new fundamental knowledge of physical phenomena, resulting from the previously inaccessible coupling of mesomorphic order, spontaneous magnetization and fluidity. These materials are responsive to magnetic fields orders of magnitude smaller than usual ferrofluids and so constitute great progress in material development for novel applications of magnetic liquids (e.g., tunable microsources of magnetic field, sensors, contactless mechanical actuators, optical devices such as filters, modulators or magnetic field direction sensors). Another new area that we will explore is magnetically controllable optical reflective and diffractive structures. This field was up till now limited mainly to solid-state materials and their bulk properties, while our system will be based on soft materials and surface properties. We will contribute important steps forward in the fields of microfluidics and biomedical optics. Microfluidics has proven to be an extremely active field in the last decade following the general tendency towards miniaturization, low-cost, low-waste, and high specific sensitivity. We will focus on realistic complex systems, such as anisotropic colloids or living cells, which have so far not yet been sufficiently addressed. Our experiments will thus significantly contribute to this field that is interesting not only from the fundamental point of view but also relevant for industrial partners. Development and deployment of novel methodologies for objective characterisation of biological tissues in vivo will lead to improved understanding of the involved medical conditions and thus enable or assist the development of practical, clinically relevant solutions. This approach on longitudinal studies of traumatic bruises could help determine of the time of injury in forensic investigations, and grading of burns would be a major advancement in clinical practice with great benefits for the effectiveness of their treatment as well as patients' comfort. The three-dimensional imaging technique based on PPTR would represent a global novelty and push the envelope of photothermal techniques beyond its biomedical applications. Development and verification of improved tissue irradiation models will provide other researchers with a valuable research tool, allowing prediction of the efficacy of new optical diagnostic techniques and therapeutic protocols and their preliminary optimization.
Significance for the country
The research programme Light and Matter ensures that Slovenia keeps in the forefront of R&D in the fields of Optics and Photonics that are vital in many branches of present science and technology. The programme can be considered as a basic platform, which provides the education of students at the highest level of competence. We will put efforts to play this important role also in the forthcoming years. The accumulated knowledge and newly graduated students will allow the Slovenian companies to participate in new European and international projects, both on the fundamental and applied level. The proposed research activities present a tight connection between basic and applied science, and a rapid transfer of personnel is possible from the scientific to the technological know-how. The existing close collaboration with several foreign research groups ensures that the programme will be able to actively participate in international research. The optoelectronic industry in Slovenia is well-developed. Our close contacts with several companies have a long and successful history. We educate competent engineers and take care that the level of knowledge is on the leading edge. This is important for the companies in order to compete in the global market. The research of the scientist in our group has contributed to development of lasers, produced by the company Fotona, and their applications. In collaboration with LPKF, Laser & Electronics, we developed successful direct laser photolithography and micro structuring system. In the field of liquid-crystal light switches, Balder - optoelectronic elements and measuring systems, Ltd. is another example of successful collaboration in the past. Within a recently established collaboration with Slovenian pharmaceutical industrial partners, we study aggregation in biological medications. This is an important risk factor to consider when assessing drug quality and effectiveness. This area of research is strongly in line with the Slovenian development strategy that identifies biopharmaceuticals as one of the focus areas of its Smart specialisation in priority area Health-Medicine. An economic impact is also expected from our original methodology for noninvasive characterisation of biological tissues and organs in vivo (such as human skin). It is a great asset in research and also for optimisation of many laser treatments, e.g., removal of scars, unwanted tattoos and hairs, as well as skin rejuvenation. Many Slovenian companies are active in this sector or have a commercial interest in this area. The research group Light and Matter is firmly interconnected with the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics (FMF) at the University of Ljubljana and Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, University of Maribor. Members of the group were mentors for diploma theses, master's theses and doctoral dissertations in the field of optics and applications of optical methods. Our contribution is very relevant for local development, as more than half of our alumni found employment in the industry. The programme group will continue the training of specialists in optical methods, light scattering, optical spectroscopy and laser design. Along with training of Slovenian students and young researchers, we will also host and train several foreign PhD students. We wrote several textbooks and lecture notes in the fields of optics for different levels of education. These publications are indispensable in the dissemination of knowledge and establishment of Slovenian terminology in the field of optics. Members of the group cover nearly all courses on this field at FMF for first, second and third cycle degrees and thus play a crucial role in educating promising and employable optics specialists. In collaboration with the students at FMF, during the last years, we wrote or significantly improved over 40 Slovenian Wikipedia entries in the field of optics and photonics, from entries of general interest such as rainbows and mirrors to specialised entries such as solitons, nonlinear optical phenomena or confocal microscopy. A member of our programme group recently started a special YouTube channel (Fotonika) with educational animations and presentations on optical technologies suitable for high school students. We will continue with these activities also in the following years. Our programme is a joint effort of researchers from universities and research institutes. Therefore it promotes the successful connection of research and educational sectors.
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