ITMO University Saint Petersburg National Research University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics

PCNSPA Conference 2016 - A step towards the future: transforming technology with photonic colloidal nanostructures

Physicists, chemists, biologists, and chemical engineers discussed colloidal nanocrystals at the “PCNSPA Conference 2016 - Photonic Colloidal Nanostructures: Synthesis, Properties, and Applications” organized by the International Research and Education Center for Physics of Nanostructures of ITMO University together with the Fund for Laser Physics, in St. Petersburg on June 27 - July 1, 2016.


The Invited speakers to the conference were some of the most prominent and cited scientists in the areas of physics and optics of nanostructures (average h-index 54.4). The fact that this first PCNSPA conference attracted the interest of these top international scientists is the best testimony of the reputation of ITMO University in these fields. The speakers came from the City University of Hong Kong, TU Berlin, Queen Mary University of London, University of Manchester, Belarusian State University, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, University of Basque Country and from other universities and research institutes.


Photonic Colloidal Nanostructures are semiconductor, metal, and dielectric nanocrystals that can be further combined with each other or other types of nanoctructures as well as with molecules to produce functional hybrid structures.


The applications of quantum hybrid structures are various, particularly because of the unusual optical properties of colloidal nanocrystals such as quantum dots, quantum rods, and nanoplatelets. They absorb light very efficiently and accumulate this energy. This energy can be released by luminescence, for example . Currently researchers can regulate the luminescence wavelength simply by varying the nanocrystal size. Thus “small” particles emit blue light, “medium-sized” ones emit green or yellow while “large” particles emit red light. Previously researchers had to use different materials to obtain emitters of radiation of different wavelength. These properties allow us to use quantum dots as luminescent labels to obtain a colored image of cell parts, for example.


If a luminescent quantum dot is attached to a specific molecule-indicator the resulting hybrid structure may not exhibit luminescence anymore because the light energy absorbed by the quantum dot is transferred to this molecule. Under the influence of species present in the environment the absorption spectrum of a molecule-indicator changes preventing energy transfer and the quantum dot begins to emit light again, allowing those species to be detected. Thus the hybrid structure serves a sensor, which can be used, among others, for the analysis of the composition of blood and the detection of explosives or pollutants in liquids and air. 


Another very promising application of these nanostructures is in the field of the so-called “green” energies. Hybrid structures based on quantum dots can enhance the effectiveness of solar cells. Modern photovoltaic modules based on silicon and germanium do not absorb infrared radiation of wavelength larger than 1.3 microns. However, if modules based on hybrid structures with quantum dots are developed, the resulting devices will be able to absorb radiation of all solar spectrum.


During the conference the Invited speakers also visited the International Research and Education Center for Physics of Nanostructures. According to Professor Alexander Baranov, co-chair of the Program Committee of the conference, the participants highly appreciated the professionalism of the researchers working in the center and the modern facilities available for the synthesis and study of colloidal nanocrystals and hybrid nanostructures of different types. 


"Our Center includes both educational and research units. Bachelor, Master’s and PhD students study at the Chair of Optical Physics and Modern Natural Science and then continue their research activities at the Centre of Optical Information Technologies. We give young researchers the opportunity to be involved in real experimental work, deal with modern equipment and also teach them how to write scientific articles,” said the professor. During the visit, further scientific collaboration between the foreign universities and ITMO University has been discussed.


Another aspect of the PCNSPA conference that should be highlighted is its educational component. Many ITMO University under- and post-graduate students participated in the Conference with presentations. During the event they had the opportunity to share and discuss the results of their research projects with leading scientists working in photonic colloidal nanostructures and learn about the most advanced trends in this field. Besides, the Invited speakers expressed the wish to take part in the next PCNSPA Conference planned for 2018.


The PCNSPA Conference 2016 was sponsored by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR) and the companies OPTEC and LABTEST, and was support by several of the most reputed international scientific societies: the European Optical Society (EOS), the German Society of Applied Optics (DGaO), the Brazilian Materials Research Society (SBPMat Brazil-MRS), the Israel Physical Society (IPS), the European Technology Platform Photonics21, the Institute of Physics Quantum Electronics and Photonics Group (IOP QEP Group), the French Optical Society (SFO), and The Japan Society of Applied Physics (JSAP), among others.