1) Heat transfer in laser-irradiated inorganic nanostructures for targeted photothermal therapy
Significant research effort has been made towards clinical investigation of nanoscale materials for targeted cancer hyperthermia. This approach relies first on engineering the nanomaterials to bind selectively to cancer tissue by designing the morphology and surface of the material to enhance permeability and uptake. Near-infrared lasers are used to heat the particles to create local thermal damage that hinders angiogenesis and DNA-repair within tumor tissue. Gold nanoparticles have strong near-infrared surface plasmon absorption which leads to substantial heating of subcutaneous tumors. It is possible to superheat aqueous buffers to over 200°C above the boiling point of water at atmospheric pressure due to extremely large Young-Laplace surface pressures arising from the interplay between tremendous curvature on surface tension at nanometer length scales. Research in the Pauzauskie lab is focused on the design, synthesis, and experimental characterization of biocompatible nanomaterials for targeted photothermal therapies.
2) Optomechanical patterning and plasma processing of nanoscale materials for energy conversion and storage
Nanoscale materials show great promise for energy storage given their high surface area to volume, single-crystalline structure, tunable electronic properties, and potential for low-cost processing. Research is directed at using massively parallel optical dielectrophoresis techniques to control the density, composition, and grain alignment of high-surface area electrode materials for potential energy storage applications. The group is also interested in changing the phase and composition of nanocrystalline grains through low-temperature non-equilibrium plasma-processing to make selective modifications of a material’s crystallographic phase, chemical stability, and charge transport characteristics.