She will investigate fundamental phenomena in liquid crystals (LCs), a metaphase bridging the gap between the liquid, gas and solid phase. In particular she will access the realm of processes and related dynamics involved during a phase transition across an extremely wide range of temporal and spatial scales. Using LCs, in fact, it is possible to pass in a controlled manner from an isotropic system without any specific order, typical in gases and liquids, via a partially (orientationally) ordered to a fully ordered and three-dimensionally periodic system, such as solids.
To do so the group will focus on the understanding of low-energy phenomena across LCs phase transitions presenting different structural organization. In particular, this investigation will allow to define the degree of localization in collective molecular dynamics excited with THz pulses, answering questions such as: What is the nature of the collective molecular dynamics in LCs across phase transition? In which conditions does such collective dynamics persist after excitation? Or can resonant collective dynamics transiently impact on LCs electronic and/or structural properties?
To gather information about the electronic dynamics at the fastest time scale, on the other hand, the group will visualize the molecular motion induced by an ultrashort stimulus in real time via high harmonic generation and monitor the nonlinear response when resonant low frequency modes are excited.
Laura Cattaneo studied physics at the Politecnico of Milano. She received her doctorate in 2011 in Milano, under the supervision of Prof. Pietro Cavallotti. This was followed by two postdoctoral research grants at Radboud University of Nijmegen (2011-2014) and at ETH Zurich (2014-2020).