SMART - Singapore MIT Alliance for Research and Technology

Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research & Technology

Biosystems and Micromechanics

BioSystems and Micromechanics (BioSyM) Inter-Disciplinary Research Group

George Barbastathis
Professor of Mechanical Engineering, MIT


  • 1998 PhD Electrical Engineering, California Institute of Technology
  • 1994 MSc Electrical Engineering, California Institute of Technology
  • 1993 Dipl. Electrical & Computer Engineering, National Technical University of Athens


  • 2010-present, Professor, Mechanical Engineering, MIT
  • 2005-2010 Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, M.I.T.
  • 2008-2009 Faculty Resident, Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) Centre
  • 2006-2007 Visiting Scholar, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University
  • 2002-2005 Esther & Harold E. Edgerton Assistant Professor, M.I.T.
  • 1999-2002 Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, M.I.T.
  • 1998-1999 Post-doctoral research associate, Beckman Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


  • Singapore Research Professor of Optics Chair (2011)
  • Fellow, Optical Society of America (2010)
  • 3M Innovation Award (1999)
  • NSF CAREER Award (2000)
  • John S. W. Kellett Award (2007)

Selected peer-reviewed publications

  • C.-H. Chang, L. Tian,W. R. Hesse,H. Gao, H. J. Choi, J.-G. Kim, M. Siddiqui,  and G. Barbastathis, “From Two-Dimensional Colloidal Self-Assembly to Three-Dimensional Nanolithography”, Nano Letters, ACS publ., v.9, 05/05/11, pg. 4.33
  • Baile Zhang, Yuan Luo,  Xiaogang Liu,1 and George Barbastathis, “Macroscopic Invisibility Cloak for Visible Light”, Physical Review Letters, published 18 January 2011
  • Laura Waller, Mankei Tsang, Sameera Ponda, Se Young Yang and George Barbastathis, “Phase and amplitude imaging from noisy images by Kalman filtering”, Optics Express 2805, Vol. 19, No. 3, January 31, 2011
  • Laura Waller, Shan Shan Kou, Colin J. R. Sheppard and George Barbastathis, “Phase from chromatic aberrations”, Optics Express 22817, Vol. 18, No. 22, Oct. 25, 2010
  • W. J. Arora, W. Tenhaeff, K. K. Gleason, and G. Barbastathis, “Integration of reactive polymeric nanofilms into a low power electro-mechanical switch for selective chemical sensing,” Journal of Micro Electro Mechanical Systems 18:97-102, 2009.
  • H. J. In, H. Lee, A. J. Nichol, S.-G.Kim, and G. Barbastathis, “Carbon Nanotube-based Magnetic Actuation of Origami Membranes,” Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology B 26:2509-2512, 2008.
  • Y. Luo, P. Gelsinger, J. M. Watson, G. Barbastathis, J. K. Barton, and R. K. Kostuk, “Laser-induced fluorescence imaging of subsurface tissue structures with a volume holographic spatial-spectral imaging system,” Optics Letters 33:2098-2100, 2008.
  • W. Arora, S. Sijbrandij, L. Stern, J. Notte, H.I. Smith, and G. Barbastathis, “Membrane folding by helium ion implantation for three-dimensional device fabrication,” Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology B 2184-2187, 2007.
  • Anthony J. Nichol, Paul S. Stellman, William J. Arora, George Barbastathis, “Two-step magnetic self-alignment of folded membranes for 3D nanomanufacturing,” Microelectronic Engineering 84, 5-8, 1168, 2007.
  • Sinha, W. Liu, D. Psaltis, and G. Barbastathis, “Imaging with volume holograms,” (invited article) Optical Engineering, 43:1959-1972, 2004.

Current research themes

  • Digital holographic imaging Digital holography is a computational imaging technique, since the diffracted optical field is captured as an interference pattern by a digital camera, and then processed digitally to extract information such as location and strength of secondary sources. Our research group is interested in the fundamental theory of imaging using digital holograms as well as the application to underwater imaging and instrumentation for fluid mechanics aand environmental studies experiments (in the context of SMART/CENSAM) as well as microscopy in opto-fluidic systems (SMART/BioSyM). The industrial side of this research is also supported by Chevron for leakage detection and two-phase flow studies in off-shore oil exploration plants, and by Samsung for application to LCD panel manufacturing.
  • Volume holographic microscopy Three-dimensional imaging typically requires some form of scanning because traditional optical systems can at most capture one in-focus plane at any given instance. By can beat this limitation by multiplexing several lenses within a volume holographic optical element and utilizing the Bragg selectivity property of these elements to separate light originating at different depths within a fluorescent object. This technique has promising applications for real-time imaging of cells, tissues, reactions within microfluidic circuits, and even live animals (SMART/BioSyM). We are also supported by NIH to develop an endoscopic version of this instrument for clinical application.
  • Subwavelength imaging optics (metamaterials) The best type of lenses theoretically is made by gradient index (GRIN) glasses, where the index of refraction (and, hence, the speed of light) varies as function of position within the medium. However, in commercial GRIN elements the types of refractive index variation are limited by manufacturing techniques. We have been studying a method of achieving arbitrary equivalent GRINs by nanopatterning at scales much smaller than the wavelength of light. Our long-term goal is to design and manufacture ultra-thin and light-weight lenses with excellent performance, i.e. well corrected for geometrical and color aberrations. Such elements will have application to underwater optics (CENSAM) and microfluidics (BioSyM) since in both cases the space available for optics is tightly confined. This research is also supported by the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology (ISN) at MIT for light-weight military imaging applications.
  • Three-dimensional nanomanufacturing Motivated by subwavelength lens manufacturing, as well as the Lateral Line Sensor project by Prof. Triantafyllou within CENSAM, we have been investigating methods to create three-dimensional mechanical structures whose surfaces are functionalized by means of nanopatterning. Our approach is to first functionalize a large membrane-like surface, and then fold it to the desired 3D shape, similar to the Japanese art of origami (paper folding.) For example, we have patterned carbon nanotubes, nanomagnets, and a variety of selectively chemically sensitive polymers and demonstrated actuation, alignment, and controlled stress formation in the folded surfaces. These techniques will lead to higher sensitivity Lateral Line sensors (CENSAM), higher-performance embedded optics in microfluidic and biological engineering systems (BioSyM). It is also funded by the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology and ICx Nomadics for chemical sensing and other applications of interest to defense and security.