Dustin Kleckner

Office phone: (773) 702-0413

Curriculum Vitae
James Franck Institute
University of Chicago
929 E. 57th St. / GCIS E027
Chicago, IL 60637


I'm a post-doc in Physics at the University of Chicago, working with professors William Irvine and Sid Nagel. My current focus is on the effects of geometry and topology on soft matter and fluid systems.

Knotted fields appear in many contexts: fluids, super-fluids, plasmas, electro-magnetic fields, etc. The degree of tangledness of these fields can be quantified ("helicity"), and is conserved for ideal flows. However, for real fluids—even superfluids—knots and links spontaneoulsy break up, calling into question the nature of this conservation law.

To understand how this disentangling works, we have new developed techniques to create and measure knots in simulations and experiments. This has included the first demonstration of a vortex knot in a real fluid (see publications), made possible by cutting edge technology like 3D printers and ultra-high speed cameras. Remarkably, we have recently discovered that vortex knots untie themselves in a special way: converting knots into coils in precisely the manner required to conserve helicity. Ultimately, this result is an important step in understanding the role that knottedness plays in complex fields like turbulence or braided loops of plasma on the surface of the sun.

Popular descriptions of my work on knotted vortices have been featured on PBS's Nova [video] and NPR's Science Friday [audio, video]. An image from our research also appeared on the cover of Nature Physics.

Before coming to the University of Chicago, I worked in the field of Quantum Optics in Dirk Bouwmeester's group at UCSB. My PhD thesis was an experimental and theoretical study of micro-optomechanical systems.


“The Life of a Vortex Knot,” Dustin Kleckner, Martin W. Scheeler, and William T. M. Irvine   (to appear in the Physics of Fluids Gallery of Fluid Motion).

See also: Accompanying video, arXiv:1310.3321 [physics.flu-dyn].
Helicity conservation in topology-changing reconnections: the flow of linking and coiling across scales,” Martin W. Scheeler, Dustin Kleckner, Davide Proment, Gordon L. Kindlmann, and William T. M. Irvine,   arXiv:1404.6513 [physics.flu-dyn]. [PDF]
Liquid crystals: Tangled loops and knots (News and Views),” William T. M. Irvine and Dustin Kleckner, Nature Materials 13, 229 (2014).
Creation and dynamics of knotted vortices,” Dustin Kleckner and William T. M. Irvine, Nature Physics 9, 253 (2013). [PDF]

See also:Fluid dynamics: Lord Kelvin's vortex rings,” Daniel P. Lathrop and Barbara Brawn-Cinani, Nature Physics 9, 207 (2013).
Optomechanical trampoline resonators,” Dustin Kleckner, Brian Pepper, Evan Jeffrey, Petro Sonin, Susanna M. Thon, and Dirk Bouwmeester, Optics Express 19, 19708 (2011). [PDF]
Micro-Optomechanical Systems for Quantum Optics,” Dustin Kleckner, UCSB Doctoral Thesis, March 2010. [PDF]
Polychromatic Photonic Quasicrystal Cavities,” Susanna M. Thon, William T. M. Irvine, Dustin Kleckner, and Dirk Bouwmeester, Physical Review Letters 104, 243901 (2010). [PDF]
Diffraction Limited High Finesse Optical Cavities,” Dustin Kleckner, William T. M. Irvine, Sumant S. R. Oemrawsingh, and Dirk Bouwmeester, Physical Review A 81, 043814 (2010). [PDF]
Creating and verifying a quantum superposition in a micro-optomechanical system,” Dustin Kleckner et al., New Journal of Physics 10, 095020 (2008). [PDF]
Sub-kelvin optical cooling of a micromechanical resonator,” Dustin Kleckner and Dirk Bouwmeester, Nature 444, 75 (2006). [PDF]
See also: Nature Podcast, November 2nd, 2006 [MP3, transcript]
High Finesse Opto-Mechanical Cavity with a Movable Thirty-Micron-Size Mirror,” Dustin Kleckner et al., Physical Review Letters 96, 173901 (2006). [PDF]


A short video about vortex knots made for the 2013 APS Divison of Fluid Dynamics Gallery of Fluid Motion. This video was the winner of a Milton Van Dyke Award.

[The complete video (including a higher resolution version) can be downloaded from the arXiv.]

A high-speed 3D reconstruction of a trefoil vortex knot going through several vortex reconnection events (one of which is zoomed in). Intended to be viewed with red-cyan 3D glasses.

[Direct Download]

external videos

Nova: Knotty Thrills

NPR Science Friday: Tying Water in a Knot


3D printed hydrofoils (Mar. 2013)

A dodecahedron made from laser cut MDF (Feb. 2013)

A bonfire at the KITP conference on Knotted Fields (June 2012)

An early version of the knotted vortex apparatus (Aug. 2011)

A dilution regrigerator insert with optomechanical cavity;
part of my PhD research (July 2010)

Tiny micro-fabricated mirrors on mechnical resonators (Dec. 2010)