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In many areas of technology, heat is perceived as an undesirable “by-product”. However, controlling the generation of heat, especially by small metal nanostructures, can create a variety of useful applications, which Professor Frank Cichos from the Peter Debye Institute for Soft Matter Physics at Leipzig University, together with colleagues from Marseilles and ETH Zurich, has now summarised in the journal “Nature Materials”.

The field of thermoplasmonics allows the generation of heat on the smallest length scales by the excitation of so-called plasmons – that is, collective electron excitations – in tiny metal structures, for example made of gold. These optically controlled sources of heat are unlocking new areas of application in medicine to treat cancer, to investigate processes in the development of neurodegenerative diseases, in chemistry to increase reaction yield, in photovoltaics, or even in 3D printing. The authors Cichos, Guillaume Baffou and Romain Quidant thus expect a variety of novel research approaches in the field of thermoplasmonics in the future.

Original publication in “Nature Materials”