Photophoretic Levitation

Photophoresis, a light-induced thermal transport and levitation mechanism, has been studied and used with micrometer-scale particles for over a century. In preliminary experiments, we demonstrated photophoretic levitation and propulsion of macroscopic (millimeter-scale) plates—thousands of times larger than ever before realized—paving the way for new technologies such as photophoretic unmanned air vehicles (UAVs). Nanoscale thickness of the used plate metamaterials rendered them lightweight enough to levitate, while their metamaterial design enabled both the needed thermal transport behavior and remarkable mechanical robustness. Please see Prof. Bargatin’s Caltech seminar or Mars University seminar if you’d like to find out more about this project.