Colloidal Optics and Photonics: Photonic Crystals, Plasmonics, and Metamaterials

Jaewon Lee, Seungwoo Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The initial motivation in colloid science and engineering was driven by the fact that colloids can serve as excellent models to study atomic and molecular behavior at the mesoscale or microscale. The thermal behaviors of actual atoms and molecules are similar to those of colloids at the mesoscale or microscale, with the primary distinction being the slower dynamics of the latter. While atoms and molecules are challenging to observe directly in situ, colloidal motions can be easily monitored in situ using simple and versatile optical microscopic imaging. This foundational approach in colloid research per-sisted until the 1980s, and began to be extensively implemented in optics and photonics research in the 1990s. This shift in research direction was brought by an interplay of several factors. In 1987, Yablono-vitch and John modernized the concept of photonic crystals (initially conceptualized by Lord Rayleigh in 1887). Around this time, mesoscale dielectric colloids, which were predominantly in a suspended state, began to be self-assembled into three-dimensional (3D) crystals. For photonic crystals operating at optical frequencies (visible to near-infrared), mesoscale crystal units are needed. At that time, no manufacturing process could achieve this, except through colloidal self-assembly. This convergence of the thirst for advances in optics and photonics and the interest in the expanding field of colloids led to a significant shift in the research paradigm of colloids. Initially limited to polymers and ceramics, colloi-dal elements subsequently expanded to include semiconductors, metals, and DNA after the year 2000. As a result, the application of colloids extended beyond dielectric-based photonic crystals to encompass plasmonics, metamaterials, and metasurfaces, shaping the present field of colloidal optics and photon-ics. In this review we aim to introduce the research trajectory of colloidal optics and photonics over the past three decades; To elucidate the utility of colloids in photonic crystals, plasmonics, and metamateri-als; And to present the challenges that must be overcome and potential research prospects for the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)608-637
Number of pages30
JournalCurrent Optics and Photonics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Current Optics and Photonics.


  • Colloids
  • Metamaterials
  • Photonic crystals
  • Plasmonics
  • Self-assembly

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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