skip to content

Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme


Ishaan Lohia,


Physics, Clare College

PhD thesis: Driving sustainable photocatalytic reactions with plasmonic nanogaps

Research interests:
1. Experimental nanophysics
2. Plasmonic systems
3. Sustainability-oriented catalysis
4. Light-matter interactions

Photocatalysts are molecules that use light to drive chemical reactions. Recent developments have synthesized molecules that can catalyse CO2 reduction, plastic depolymerization, and biofuel synthesis, opening the door to a sustainable future powered by solar energy and photocatalytic molecules. My PhD project aims to incorporate these photocatalysts into plasmonic gold nanogaps to improve their efficiency and study their reactions. The NanoPhotonics Centre has made significant advancements in the synthesis and understanding of metallic plasmonic nanogaps, which can focus light to nanoscale volumes, allowing for million-fold optical intensity enhancement, single molecule optical coupling, and enhanced optical absorption probabilities. Placing photocatalysts in nanogaps will allow us to take advantage of these powerful nanophotonic phenomena to efficiently drive catalysis with light and study the reaction mechanisms of single molecules in real time.

Who or what inspired you to pursue your research interests?
I was inspired to pursue research in the field of nanophotonics because it offers the chance to simultaneously explore the fundamental mysteries of physics and develop technology with real-world applications. This is reflected in my PhD project, where I aim to understand catalysis at the single-molecule level and improve photocatalytic efficiency of sustainability-oriented reactions via scalable mechanisms. I am forever grateful to Professor Marcel Di Vece, who first introduced me to experimental nanophotonics. At Cambridge’s NanoPhotonics Centre, Professor Jeremy Baumberg and Dr. Bart de Nijs have been incredible mentors who continue to provide invaluable support as I pursue my research.