William Irvine
    James Franck Institute,

    929 E 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
    wtmirvine [at] uchicago.edu
    +1 773 819 5668



Irvine Lab homepage created - please visit it for more up to date information about the research in my group.


Research interests

My research interests are in the fields of experimental soft condensed matter and theoretical and experimental "knotted fields". A common theme in my research interests is the strong role played by geometry and advanced optical techniques.

"Soft" is used to describe a rich variety of classical many-body systems that have energetics accessible at room temperature and are large enough for their constituents to be imaged, providing an ideal playground for the study of many open questions in equilibrium and non-equilibrium many-body physics. Using colloidal particles, (both spherical and shaped, fluids and foams), we are investigating a variety of problems in ordered and disordered phases. A recent focus has been on the use of curvature as a tool to probe structure in two dimensions. In particular, we recently investigated the structure of two-dimensional colloidal crystals frustrated by the Gaussian curvature of the curved oil-water interface they are bound to. We are currently developing techniques to extend these ideas to far from equilibrium processes in curved space.

To tie a shoelace into a knot is a relatively simple affair. Tying a knot in a field is a different story, because the whole of space must be filled in a way that matches the knot being tied at the core. The possibility of such localized knottedness in a space-filling field has fascinated physicists and mathematicians ever since Kelvin’s 'vortex atom' hypothesis, in which the atoms of the periodic table were hypothesized to correspond to closed vortex loops of different knot types. Recently I investigated some remarkably intricate and stable topological structures that can exist in light fields whose evolution is governed entirely by the geometric structure of the field. Open questions remain about he the rules that govern the topological structure of field lines, the possible states that can be created and especially what happens when topologically nontrivial states are coupled to matter. I am currently interested in exploring such structures in both light and `softer' fields.


Selected Publications

Pleated crystals on curved surfaces W.T.M. Irvine V.Vitelli and P.M. Chaikin
To appear in Nature (2010)

Linked and knotted beams of light, W.T.M.Irvine and D. Bouwmeester, Nature Physics, Vol. 4, 716–720 (2008).

Robust Long-Distance Entanglement and a Loophole-Free Bell Test with Ions and Photons, C.Simon and W.T.M. Irvine, Phys. Rev. Lett. Vol. 91, 110405 (2003).

Realisation of Hardy's thought experiment, W.T.M. Irvine, J.H. Hodelin, C. Simon and D. Bouwmeester, Phys. Rev. Lett. Vol. 95, 030401 (2005).