Physicist Brian Thompson Discusses His Latest Building Project and the Research that Followed

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Using optical tweezers he built himself, Dr. Brian Thompson studies the behavior of light inside microscopic spheres at various frequencies.

The University of North Alabama news team recently sat down with Dr. Brian Thompson, a professor of physics, to discuss his research on light behavior. Using optical tweezers he built himself, Thompson studies the behavior of light inside microscopic spheres at various frequencies. The data gathered from these experiments has enabled his students and him to compare fundamental theories of the ways light operates.

“My original thought when building the optical tweezers was akin to the ‘Field of Dreams’ idea – that is, build it, and the ideas will come with what to do with it,” Thompson said. “I was giving a talk about the tweezers’ capabilities when a fellow suggested to me that I use it to study light circling around inside microscopic spheres. These microspheres, they can be doped with a florescent dye so that when you hit the sphere with one color of light, it will emit light of a different color. … The light emitted by the florescent dye tends to circle around the spheres, and at most frequencies, we don’t see much light at all, but at certain resonance frequencies, we get very intense light emission, and it is these resonances in light circling around the spheres that we study.

“These microspheres, they have lots of interesting implications. For example, they can be used as microscopic lasers, or they can be used to detect trace amounts of whatever material you might be interested in. So there are uses for these spheres that are being developed, but we are focused really on comparing fundamental theories about how light operates in these spheres.”

SCHEDULE AN INTERVIEW: To interview Thompson, call or email Josh Woods using the contact information listed above.

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