Imperial College London

Professor Ortwin Hess

Faculty of Natural SciencesDepartment of Physics

Leverhulme Chair in Metamaterials



+44 (0)20 7594 7586o.hess Website




806Blackett LaboratorySouth Kensington Campus





Professor Ortwin Hess holds the Leverhulme Chair in Metamaterials in the Blackett Laboratory /  Department of Physics at Imperial College London. He is Co-Director of the Centre for Plasmonics & Metamaterials and Deputy-Head of the Condensed Matter Theory group. He is also an academic member of the Thomas Young Centre

Bridging condensed matter theory and quantum optics, Professor Hess's research interests and his group's activities are in Quantum Theory of Matter and Light (QTML) and currently focused on active (photonic, electronic and magnetic) metamaterials, quantum nano-photonics and spatio-temporal dynamics of (plasmonic and semiconductor) nanolasers.

The Hess Group in October 2014

The Hess Group Quantum Theory of Matter and Light at Imperial College London

NEWS and Highlights


stopped-light nanolasing

cavity-free stopped-light nanolasing

Nonequilibrium plasmon emission drives ultrafast carrier relaxation dynamics in photoexcited graphene Phys Rev B 93, 041408(R) (2016) by Hamm, Page, Bravo-Abad, Gracia-Vidal, Hess

Cavity-free plasmonic nanolasing enabled by dispersionless stopped light (open access) Nature Communications 5, 4972 (2014) by Pickering, Hamm, Page, Wuestner & Hess

Ultrafast plasmonic nanowire lasers near the surface plasmon frequency Nature Physics 10, 870 (2014)  by Sidropoulos, Roder, Geburt, Hess, Maier, Ronning and Oulton. 

 Metamaterials with Quantum Gain Science 339, 654 (2013) by Hess &Tsakmakidis

Completely Stopped and Displersionless Light in Plasmonic Waveguides  Phys Rev Lett 112, 167401 (2014) by Tsakmakidis, Pickering, Hamm, Page & Hess. [Featured in Physics: Light Nearly Stopped in a Waveguide, Physics 7, 44 (2014)]. 

Active Nanoplasmonic Metamaterials Nature Materials 11, 573 - 584 (2012) by Hess et al.  


Active Optical Metamaterials by Wuestner and Hess in: Progress in Optics (E Wolf, Ed.) Vol. 59 (Elsevier, 2014). 

Photonics of Quantum-Dot Nanomaterials and Devices: Theory and Modelling by Hess and Gehrig (Imperial College Press, London, 2012). 

Spatio-Temporal Dynamics and Quantum Fluctuations in Semiconductor Lasers by Gehrig and Hess (Springer, Berlin, 2003). 


The Stopped-Light Laser: An Optical 'Black Hole' on the Nanoscale given at the Cambridge University Physics Society (19 Nov 2014) discusses a new lasing principle realised by stopped light at nanoplasmonic singularities.

 Active Nanoplasmonic Metamaterials provides a brief overview of recent research on metamaterials and nanoplasmonics with quantum gain.


Quantum Theory of Matter and Light

Promoting an extreme control of light and matter interaction quantum nano-photonics empowers novel femto- and attosecond and nano-photonic phenomena, forming the basis for quantum photonics and innovative nano-photonic lasers. 

 And the  "metamaterial" concept to control photons and electrons by the principle "function from structure" has inspired scientists to conceive perfect lenses, new lasers, 'invisibility' and acoustic cloaks and opened the door to slow and stopped broadband light with applications in quantum science and technology, sensing and nano-chemistry. 

The Hess group studies the physics of nanophotonics and optical and electronic metamaterials and advanced lasers, and investigates the (ultrafast) nonlinear and quantum dynamics of nano-plasmonic and nano-photonic materials and  (complex) nano-photonic systems with gain. Concurrently, the group is striving to embed metamaterials in new realms of applications in information and laser technology, nanophotovoltaics and the bio-medical sciences.

Light in Photonic and Electronic Metamaterials

- Nanoplasmonic metasurfaces 
- Chiral metamaterials, metafoils and chiral light
- Self-organised active 3D gyroidal metamaterials
- Semiconductor metamaterials
- "Dirac light" in active nanoplasmonic metasurfaces


- Slow and stopped light
- Quantum fluctuations and spontaneous emission control 
- Nanoplasmonic strong coupling
- Femto- and attosecond nanophotonics

Nano Optics

- Functional nano-plasmonic nano-cavities
- Ultra-low energy optical switching
- Nanoparticle photo-chemistry
- Nanophotovoltaics

NanoLaser Dynamics

- Plasmonic stopped-light nanolasing
- Nonlinear metamaterials with quantum gain
- Quantum-dot lasers
- Ultrafast plasmonic semiconductor nanolasers


Short Biography

Professor Ortwin Hess holds the Leverhulme Chair in Metamaterials in the Department of Physics at Imperial College London and is Co-Director of the Centre for Plasmonics & Metamaterials.

Professor Hess studied physics at the University of Erlangen and the Technical University of Berlin. Following pre- and post-doctoral times in Edinburgh and at the University of Marburg, Hess has been (from 1995 to 2003) Head of the Theoretical Quantum Electronics Group at the Institute of Technical Physics in Stuttgart, Germany. He has a Habilitation in Theoretical Physics at the University of Stuttgart (1997) and became Adjunct Professor in 1998. Since 2001 he is Docent of Photonics at Tampere University of Technology in Finland. Professor Hess has been Visiting Professor at Stanford University (1997 - 1998) and the University of Munich (2000 - 2001). From 2003 to 2010 he was Professor of Theoretical Condensed Matter and Optical Physics in the Department of Physics and the Advanced Technology Institute at the University of Surrey in Guildford, UK. 

Research Interests

Professor Hess's research interests and activities are in condensed matter quantum optics and are currently focused on quantum photonics, optical and electronic metamaterials, spatio-temporal laser dynamics and computational photonics.

Bridging theoretical condensed-matter physics, quantum optics and laser physics, Professor Hess has pioneered the research fields and concepts of active nano-plasmonics and optical metamaterials with quantum gain and made seminal contributions to spatio-temporal dynamics of semiconductor lasers.

Hess has discovered the ‘trapped-rainbow’ principle and recently introduced and explained the idea of cavity-free ‘stopped-light lasing’.

He has further contributed significantly to quantum dot photonics [book (Imperial College Press, 2012)] and computational modeling of photonic crystals as well as to the quantum theory of temperature on the nano-scale [several book chapters].

Hess combines theoretical solid state (quantum) optics with computational photonics, involving the development of innovative approaches and techniques leading to the realization of a unique and flexible family of codes for active nano-plasmonics and (inherently multi-scale) metamaterials as well as nonlinearities and the microscopic spatio-temporal interplay of intense light with nano-structured materials (semiconductors, polymers, etc) on ultrafast time-sclaes.

He strives to explore the dynamics and light-matter interaction in active (nonlinear, gain-enhanced and dynamic) nanophotonic metamaterials, the physics of self-organised (polymer based) nanoplasmonic chiral metamaterials, semiconductor quantum nanomaterials, quantum dots and graphene with gain as well as the dynamics and quantum fluctuations of slow and stopped light and ultrafast (nano-) lasers. Further plans are the study of the ultrafast spatio-temporal dynamics in nano-plasmonics and the control of spontaneous and amplified spontaneous emission.

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Oh SS, Hess O, 2015, Chiral metamaterials: enhancement and control of optical activity and circular dichroism, Nano Convergence, Vol:2

Chikkaraddy R, de Nijs B, Barrow S, et al., Single-molecule strong coupling at room temperature in plasmonic nanocavities, Nature, ISSN:0028-0836

Pusch A, De Luca A, Oh SS, et al., 2015, A highly efficient CMOS nanoplasmonic crystal enhanced slow-wave thermal emitter improves infrared gas-sensing devices, Scientific Reports, Vol:5, ISSN:2045-2322

Wuestner S, Pickering T, Hamm JM, et al., 2015, Ultrafast dynamics of nanoplasmonic stopped-light lasing, Faraday Discussions, Vol:178, ISSN:1359-6640, Pages:307-324

Wuestner S, Hamm JM, Pusch A, et al., 2015, Plasmonic leaky-mode lasing in active semiconductor nanowires, Laser & Photonics Reviews, Vol:9, ISSN:1863-8880, Pages:256-262

Ibbotson LA, Demetriadou A, Croxall S, et al., 2015, Optical nano-woodpiles: large-area metallic photonic crystals and metamaterials, Scientific Reports, Vol:5, ISSN:2045-2322

Page AF, Ballout F, Hess O, et al., 2015, Nonequilibrium plasmons with gain in graphene, Physical Review B, Vol:91, ISSN:1098-0121

Sidiropoulos TPH, Roeder R, Geburt S, et al., 2014, Ultrafast plasmonic nanowire lasers near the surface plasmon frequency, Nature Physics, Vol:10, ISSN:1745-2473, Pages:870-876

Pickering T, Hamm JM, Page AF, et al., 2014, Cavity-free plasmonic nanolasing enabled by dispersionless stopped light, Nature Communications, Vol:5, ISSN:2041-1723

Kim T-T, Oh SS, Park H-S, et al., 2014, Optical Activity Enhanced by Strong Inter-molecular Coupling in Planar Chiral Metamaterials, Scientific Reports, Vol:4, ISSN:2045-2322

Wu J, Ng B, Liang H, et al., 2014, Chiral Metafoils for Terahertz Broadband High-Contrast Flexible Circular Polarizers, Physical Review Applied, Vol:2, ISSN:2331-7019

Tsakmakidis KL, Pickering TW, Hamm JM, et al., 2014, Completely Stopped and Dispersionless Light in Plasmonic Waveguides, Physical Review Letters, Vol:112, ISSN:0031-9007

Liu W, Miroshnichenko AE, Oulton RF, et al., 2013, Scattering of core-shell nanowires with the interference of electric and magnetic resonances, Optics Letters, Vol:38, ISSN:0146-9592, Pages:2621-2624

Hamm JM, Hess O, 2013, Two Two-Dimensional Materials Are Better than One, Science, Vol:340, ISSN:0036-8075, Pages:1298-1299

Salvatore S, Demetriadou A, Vignolini S, et al., 2013, Tunable 3D Extended Self-Assembled Gold Metamaterials with Enhanced Light Transmission, Advanced Materials, Vol:25, ISSN:0935-9648, Pages:2713-2716

Weick G, Woollacott C, Barnes WL, et al., 2013, Dirac-like Plasmons in Honeycomb Lattices of Metallic Nanoparticles, Physical Review Letters, Vol:110, ISSN:0031-9007

Hess O, Tsakmakidis KL, 2013, Metamaterials with Quantum Gain, Science, Vol:339, ISSN:0036-8075, Pages:654-655

Oh SS, Demetriadou A, Wuestner S, et al., 2013, On the Origin of Chirality in Nanoplasmonic Gyroid Metamaterials, Advanced Materials, Vol:25, ISSN:0935-9648, Pages:612-617

Hess O, Pendry JB, Maier SA, et al., 2012, Active nanoplasmonic metamaterials, Nature Materials, Vol:11, ISSN:1476-1122, Pages:573-584

Wuestner S, Pusch A, Hamm JM, et al., 2012, Dynamics of amplification in a nanoplasmonic metamaterial, Applied Physics A: Materials Science and Processing, Vol:107, Pages:77-82

Pusch A, Wuestner S, Hamm JM, et al., 2012, Coherent Amplification and Noise in Gain-Enhanced Nanoplasmonic Metamaterials: A Maxwell-Bloch Langevin Approach, ACS Nano, Vol:6, ISSN:1936-0851, Pages:2420-2431

Wuestner S, Hamm JM, Pusch A, et al., 2012, Control and dynamic competition of bright and dark lasing states in active nanoplasmonic metamaterials, Physical Review B, Vol:85, ISSN:2469-9950

Wuestner S, Pusch A, Tsakmakidis KL, et al., 2010, Overcoming Losses with Gain in a Negative Refractive Index Metamaterial, Physical Review Letters, Vol:105, ISSN:0031-9007

Reschner DW, Gehrig E, Hess O, 2009, Pulse Amplification and Spatio-Spectral Hole-Burning in Inhomogeneously Broadened Quantum-Dot Semiconductor Optical Amplifiers, IEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics, Vol:45, ISSN:0018-9197, Pages:21-33

Hess O, 2008, Optics - Farewell to flatland, Nature, Vol:455, ISSN:0028-0836, Pages:299-300

Boehringer K, Hess O, 2008, A full-time-domain approach to spatio-temporal dynamics of semiconductor lasers. I. Theoretical formulation, Progress in Quantum Electronics, Vol:32, ISSN:0079-6727, Pages:159-246

Tsakmakidis KL, Boardman AD, Hess O, 2007, 'Trapped rainbow' storage of light in metamaterials, Nature, Vol:450, ISSN:0028-0836, Pages:397-401

Gehrig E, Hess O, 2007, Dynamic spatiotemporal pulse shaping in two-photon active biomolecular media, Journal of the Optical Society of America B - Optical Physics, Vol:24, ISSN:0740-3224, Pages:522-526

Klaedtke A, Hess O, 2006, Ultrafast nonlinear dynamics of whispering-gallery mode micro-cavity lasers, Optics Express, Vol:14, ISSN:1094-4087, Pages:2744-2752

Hartmann M, Mahler G, Hess O, 2004, Existence of temperature on the nanoscale, Physical Review Letters, Vol:93, ISSN:0031-9007

Hess O, Hermann C, Klaedtke A, 2003, Finite-Difference Time-Domain simulations of photonic crystal defect structures, Physica Status Solidi. A - Applied Research, Vol:197, ISSN:0031-8965, Pages:605-619

Hermann C, Hess O, 2002, Modified spontaneous-emission rate in an inverted-opal structure with complete photonic bandgap, Journal of the Optical Society of America B - Optical Physics, Vol:19, ISSN:0740-3224, Pages:3013-3018

Gehrig E, Hess O, 2002, Mesoscopic spatiotemporal theory for quantum-dot lasers, Physical Review A, Vol:65, ISSN:1050-2947

Hess O, Kuhn T, 1996, Maxwell-Bloch equations for spatially inhomogeneous semiconductor lasers .1. Theoretical formulation, Physical Review A, Vol:54, ISSN:1050-2947, Pages:3347-3359

Hess O, Kuhn T, 1996, Maxwell-Bloch equations for spatially inhomogeneous semiconductor lasers .2. Spatiotemporal dynamics, Physical Review A, Vol:54, ISSN:1050-2947, Pages:3360-3368


Wuestner S, Hess O, 2014, Active Optical Metamaterials, Editor(s): Wolf, ELSEVIER ACADEMIC PRESS INC, Pages:1-88

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