Ewold was awarded a Starting Grant of 1.5 million euros from the European Research Council (ERC). The ERC uses the Starting Grants to support talented scientists in the early stages of their career in pursuing ground-breaking projects for a duration of five years.
We will use the grant to study how mechanical vibrations (‘sound’) can be transported along nanostructured surfaces. Light can control these mechanical vibrations through optical ‘radiation pressure’ forces. The prospective result is remarkable; the sound waves will start behaving in ways not found in nature. The force of light will make the sound waves move in only one direction, it will transport them unhindered around arbitrary corners, and let the waves interact with each other.
In particular, the project aims to study the unique behavior of mechanical motion that is normally associated only with electrons in so-called ‘topological insulators’: materials with remarkable electronic properties whose description was awarded the Nobel prize in physics last year. Creating analogous effects for sound at the nanoscale could lead to fundamentally new opportunities in technology, for example in sensing and information processing.