Skip to main content

Tongcang Li

NOTE: E-mail addresses end with

Tongcang Li
PHYS 91 Lab
(765) 496-0072
(765) 494-3020

Lab Homepage:


  • 2011: Ph.D. in Physics, The University of Texas at Austin, USA.
  • 2004: B.S. in Physics, University of Science and Technology of China


  • 08/2020 - : Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Purdue University.
  • 08/2020 - : Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Purdue University.
  • 08/2014 - 07/2020: Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Purdue University.
  • 08/2014 - 07/2020: Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Purdue University.
  • 12/2011 - 07/2014: Affiliate, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
  • 08/2011 - 07/2014: Postdoctoral Scholar, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA.

Other Experiences

  • Associate Editor, Photonics Research (Impact factor: 7.254), 2022 - present.
  • Editorial Board Member, Photonics (Impact factor: 2.676), 2022
  • Guest Editor, Focus issue "Focus on Quantum Emitters and Spin Defects," Materials for Quantum Technology (IOP Publishing), 2021-2022
  • Guest Editor, Special issue “Optomechanics: Science and Applications”, Photonics, 2021
  • Reviewer for Science, Nature Physics, Nature Photonics, Nature Nanotechnology, Nature Communications, PNAS, Physical Review Letters, Nano Letters, Physical Review A, Laser & Photonics Reviews, New Journal of Physics, Optics Express, Nanotechnology, etc.
  • Reviewer for National Science Foundation, European Research Council, German Research Foundation, French National Research Agency, Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, etc.

Research Interests

Solid-state spin qubits, levitated spin-optomechanics, optomechanics with quantum vacuum fluctuations, quantum optics, quantum information, etc.

Awards and Honors

  • University Faculty Scholar, Purdue University, 2023
  • 30 breakthroughs in "Optics in 2022", Optics & Photonics News, Optica, 2022
  • PGSA Award for Outstanding Advising, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Purdue University, 2020 
  • Senior member, Optica (formerly the Optical Society of America), 2019 
  • Top 10 finalists for the 2019 Moore Inventor Fellows Award, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
  • APS Physics Top 10 "Highlights of the Year" of 2018, American Physical Society
  • Purdue's Top 10 Research Stories of 2018, Purdue University
  • Seed for Success Award (Excellence in Research), Purdue University, 2018, 2019
  • Science Bulletin 2017 Best Paper Award, Science China Press
  • NSF CAREER Award, National Science Foundation, 2016
  • Springer Theses Prize, Springer Science + Business Media, 2012
  • Outstanding Dissertation in Physics, Department of Physics, The University of Texas at Austin, 2011
  • Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Self-financed Students Abroad, China Scholarship Council, 2011
  • Jean Bennett Memorial Student Travel Grant, Optical Society of America Foundation, 2010
    (Only one student is awarded this grant per year. Citation: “In recognition of outstanding research excellence”.)
  • Lawrence C. Biedenharn Endowment for Excellence, The University of Texas at Austin, 2010


  • Tongcang Li, Fundamental Tests of Physics with Optically Trapped Microspheres (Springer Theses) (Springer, New York, 2013)

Selected Journal Publications

  1. Zhujing Xu, Peng Ju, Xingyu Gao, Kunhong Shen, Zubin Jacob, Tongcang Li. "Observation and control of Casimir effects in a sphere-plate-sphere system." Nature Communications 13, 6148 (2022). 
  2. Xingyu Gao, Sumukh Vaidya, Kejun Li, Peng Ju, Boyang Jiang, Zhujing Xu, Andres E. Llacsahuanga Allcca, Kunhong Shen, Takashi Taniguchi, Kenji Watanabe, Sunil A. Bhave, Yong P. Chen, Yuan Ping, Tongcang Li. "Nuclear spin polarization and control in hexagonal boron nitride." Nature Materials 21, 1024 (2022). 
  3. Nikhil Mathur, Arunabh Mukherjee, Xingyu Gao, Jialun Luo, Brendan A. McCullian, Tongcang Li, A. Nick Vamivakas, Gregory D. Fuchs. "Excited-state spin-resonance spectroscopy of VB- defect centers in hexagonal boron nitride," Nature Communications, 13, 3233 (2022) 
  4. Zhujing Xu, Xingyu Gao, Jaehoon Bang, Zubin Jacob, and Tongcang Li. "Non-reciprocal energy transfer through the Casimir effect," Nature Nanotechnology 17, 148 (2022).
  5. Kunhong Shen, Yao Duan, Peng Ju, Zhujing Xu, Xi Chen, Lidan Zhang, Jonghoon Ahn, Xingjie Ni, Tongcang Li. "On-chip optical levitation with a metalens in vacuum," Optica, 8, 1359 (2021)
  6. Xingyu Gao, Boyang Jiang, Andres E. Llacsahuanga Allcca, Kunhong Shen, Mohammad A. Sadi, Abhishek B. Solanki, Peng Ju, Zhujing Xu, Pramey Upadhyaya, Yong P. Chen, Sunil A. Bhave, Tongcang Li. "High-contrast plasmonic-enhanced shallow spin defects in hexagonal boron nitride for quantum sensing," Nano Letters 21, 7708 (2021)
  7. Jonghoon Ahn, Zhujing Xu, Jaehoon Bang, Peng Ju, Xingyu Gao, Tongcang Li. "Ultrasensitive torque detection with an optically levitated nanorotor". Nature Nanotechnology 15, 89 (2020) 
  8. Jonghoon Ahn, Zhujing Xu, Jaehoon Bang, Yu-Hao Deng, Thai M. Hoang, Qinkai Han, Ren-Min Ma, Tongcang Li. "Optically Levitated Nanodumbbell Torsion Balance and GHz Nanomechanical Rotor", Phys. Rev. Lett., 121, 033603  (2018) (APS Physics "Highlights of the Year" of 2018. widely reported by APS website Physics, Nature magazine, NBC News, Fox News, Yahoo! News, and many other major media)
  9. Thai M. Hoang, Rui Pan, Jonghoon Ahn, Jaehoon Bang, H. T. Quan, Tongcang Li. "Experimental test of the differential fluctuation theorem and a generalized Jarzynski equality for arbitrary initial states", Phys. Rev. Lett., 120, 080602 (2018) (Featured in APS website Physics; PRL Editors' Suggestion)
  10. Hao-Kun Li, Erik Urban, Crystal Noel, Alexander Chuang, Yang Xia, Anthony Ransford, Boerge Hemmerling, Yuan Wang, Tongcang Li, Hartmut Häffner, and Xiang Zhang. "Realization of Translational Symmetry in Trapped Cold Ion Rings", Phys. Rev. Lett. 118, 053001 (2017).   (PRL Editors' Suggestion)  
  11. Thai M. Hoang, Yue Ma, Jonghoon Ahn, Jaehoon Bang, F. Robicheaux, Zhang-Qi Yin, Tongcang Li. "Torsional optomechanics of a levitated nonspherical nanoparticle", Phys. Rev. Lett. 117, 123604 (2016) (Featured in Physics; PRL Editors' Suggestion)  
  12. Thai M. Hoang, Jonghoon Ahn, Jaehoon Bang, Tongcang Li. "Electron spin control of optically levitated nanodiamonds in vacuum", Nature Communications 7, 12550 (2016)
  13. Peng Zhang*, Tongcang Li*, Jie Zhu*, Xuefeng Zhu, Sui Yang, Yuan Wang, Xiaobo Yin, and Xiang Zhang. "Generation of acoustic self-bending and bottle beams by phase engineering", Nature Communications5, 4316 (2014) (* coleading authors)
  14. S. Kheifets, A. Simha, K. Melin, Tongcang Li, M. G. Raizen. "Observation of Brownian motion in liquids at short times: instantaneous velocity and memory loss", Science, 343, 1493 (2014)
  15. Peng Zhang, Yi Hu, Tongcang Li, Drake Cannan, Xiaobo Yin, Roberto Morandotti, Zhigang Chen, Xiang Zhang. Nonparaxial Mathieu and Weber accelerating beams. Phys. Rev. Lett. 109, 193901 (2012) (PRL cover story)
  16. Tongcang Li, Z.-X. Gong, Z.-Q. Yin, H. T. Quan, X. Yin, P. Zhang, L.-M. Duan, X. Zhang, “Space-time crystals of trapped ions”, Phys. Rev. Lett., 109, 163001 (2012) (PRL cover story)
  17. Tongcang Li, Simon Kheifets, Mark G. Raizen, “Millikelvin cooling of an optically trapped microsphere in vacuum”, Nature Physics, 7, 527 (2011)
  18. Tongcang Li, S. Kheifets, D. Medellin, and M. G. Raizen, “Measurement of the instantaneous velocity of a Brownian particle”, Science, 328, 1673 (2010)
  19. K. Henderson, H. Kelkar, B. Gutierrez-Medina, T. C. Li, and M. G. Raizen. "Experimental Study of the Role of Atomic Interactions on Quantum Transport". Phys. Rev. Lett. 96, 150401 (2006) 


Last Updated: Jan 10, 2023 2:05 AM

Department of Physics and Astronomy, 525 Northwestern Avenue, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2036 • Phone: (765) 494-3000 • Fax: (765) 494-0706

Copyright © 2022 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints

Trouble with this page? Disability-related accessibility issue? Please contact the College of Science.