Niek F. van Hulst

Niek F. van Hulst

Institut de Ciències Fotòniques

Engineering Sciences

Following study in Astronomy and Physics, I obtained my PhD (1986) in Molecular & Laser-Physics at University of Nijmegen (NL), 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 at MESA+ Institute for NanoTechnology, Univ. Twente (NL) 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; I was Head Academic Programs, now chair at ICFO NanoFabrication Laboratory. Recipient of 2003 Körber European Science Award, 2010 City of Barcelona Prize; 2017 European Physical Society Prize; ERC Advanced Grants in 2010, 2015 and 2021.

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 transport and coupling in single light-harvesting antenna complexes at native conditions, to unravel the efficiency and robustness 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 reflect & recharge, I like to touch ground in the Massis del Garraf, rambling between Mediterranean waters and Catalan winefields.

Selected publications

- Liebel M, Camargo FVA, Cerullo G & van Hulst NF 2022, "Widefield phototransient imaging for visualizing 3D motion of resonant particles in scattering environments", NanoScale, 14, 3062-3068, DOI: 10.1039/d1nr06837g; arXiv:2108.05124.

- Liebel M, Calderon I, Pazos-Perez N, Niek F, van Hulst & Alvarez-Puebla RA 2022, "Widefield SERS for High-Throughput Nanoparticle Screening", Angew.Chem. Int. Ed., 61 (20) e202200072.

- Saleta Reig D, Varghese S, Farris R, Block A, Mehew JD, Hellman O, Woźniak P, Sledzinska M, El Sachat A, Chávez-Ángel E, Valenzuela SO, van Hulst NF, Ordejón P, Zanolli Z, Sotomayor Torres CM, Verstraete MJ & Tielrooij KJ 2022, "Unraveling Heat Transport and Dissipation in Suspended MoSe2 from Bulk to Monolayer", Adv. Mater. 34 (10) e2108352.

- Brian Becerril-Castro I et al. 2022, "Direct Modular Printing of Plasmonic Chemosensors", ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 14, 57165−57170.

Selected research activities

- Conference organisation:

  • Int. workshop “NanoLight” Benasque 2022;
  • Symposium EG – Light-Matter Interactions at the Nanoscale at CLEO-Europe'23 Munich.


- Member of various international institution and grant evaluation panels.

- Chair ICFO NanoFabrication Laboratory.

- ERC Adv.Grant 2021: FastTrack - Photons and Electrons on the Move