Niek F. van Hulst

Institut de Ciències Fotòniques (ICFO)

Engineering Sciences

Following study in Astronomy and Physics, I obtained my PhD (1986) in Molecular & Laser-Physics at the University of Nijmegen (the Netherlands), on microwave-laser double resonance molecular-beam spectroscopy. After research in non-linear optics of organic materials, integrated optics, atomic force and near-field optical microscopy, since 1997 full Professor in Applied Optics at MESA+ Institute for NanoTechnology, University of Twente (the Netherlands) with focus on single molecule detection and scanning probe technology. In 2005, attracted by the Catalan quality-based science policy, I started as ICREA Research Professor and senior group leader at ICFO - the Institute of Photonic Sciences, within The Barcelona Institute of Science & Technology; also I am Head Academic Programs at ICFO. I coordinate the Spanish CONSOLIDER program Recipient of 2003 Körber European Science Award, 2010 City of Barcelona Prize; ERC Advanced Grants in 2010 and 2015.

Research interests

My current interest is to control light interaction at the nanometer scale. To this end, my group specializes on optical antennas, with nanoscale hot spots, and on coherent control schemes to command light on the “femto-nano” scale. We study individual molecules, quantum dots and single proteins, in strong interaction with nanoantenna-cavities and sub-10-fs pulses; controlling excitation-emission rates, direction, spectra, polarization, single photon character. We focus particularly on long-lived coherences in single light-harvesting antenna complexes at native conditions, to unravel the remarkably high efficiency of energy conversion in such natural molecular antennas. At ICFO I aim to stimulate young researchers, towards well-rooted skilled scientists and assertive critical thinkers, ready to shape their future and sustain the world. To recharge, I like to touch ground in the Massis del Garraf or to stroll around the coast, inspired by the ancient Mediterranean waters.

Selected publications

– Piatkowski L, Gellings E & van Hulst N F 2016, ‘Broadband Single Molecule Excitation Spectroscopy’, Nature Communications, 7:10411.

– Accanto N, Piatkowski L, Hancu IM, Renger J & van Hulst NF 2016, ‘Resonant Plasmonic Nanoparticles for Multicolor Second Harmonic Imaging’, Appl. Phys. Lett., 108, 083115.

– de Torres J et al. 2016, ‘Plasmonic Nanoantennas Enable Forbidden Förster Dipole-Dipole Energy Transfer and Enhance the FRET Efficiency’, NanoLetters, 16 (10), 6222–6230.

– Wientjes E, Renger J, Cogdell R & van Hulst NF 2106, ‘Pushing the Photon Limit: Nanoantennas Increase Maximal Photon Stream and Total Photon Number’, J. Phys. Chem. Lett., 7, 1604-1609.

– Piatkowski L, Accanto N & van Hulst NF 2016, ‘Ultrafast meets Ultrasmall: Controlling Nano-antennas and Molecules’, ACS Photonics, 3, 1401-1414.

– Di Fabrizio E et al. 2016, ‘Roadmap on biosensing and photonics with advanced nano-optical methods’, J. Opt., 18, 063003.

Selected research activities

  • Organization of “OSA  Siegman International School on Lasers” at ICFO Castelldefels, 24-29 July 2016: with 11 lecturers and 90 international students.

Selected invited talks:

  • Quantum & Topological Nanophotonics, NTU, Singapore
  • Physics Colloquium, WWU Muenster, Germany
  • Microscopy Congress, London, UK
  • Leading Light Symposium, AMOLF, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • Strong Coupling with Organic Molecules, Donostia, Pais Vasco
  • PIER Graduate Week, CFEL, Hamburg, Germany
  • Colloquium Instituto Nicolas Cabrera, UAM, Spain
  • Physics Meets Biology, Cambridge, UK
  • AIP Publishing Horizons: “Future of Chemical Physics” Oxford, UK
  • DPC’16 Paris, France
  • COST: Quantum Coherence on the Nanoscale, Marseille, France
  • Femto-Nano-Photonics, Les Houches Physics Center, France
  • Colloquium CNR-Nano Modena, Italy
  • COST Nonlinear Plasmonics and Applications, Rome, Italy