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Turning water to steam, no boiling required

Nanoparticles make extremely black material that enables “plasmonic” heating

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2:10pm, April 8, 2016
Gold nanoparticles

HOT STUFF  Gold nanoparticles line the pores of a new material that can absorb a range of visible and infrared wavelengths of light, creating heat. Inset (right) shows the material’s tiny nanopores. 

A new, extremely black material can turn water into steam using only sunlight, without the need to bring the water to a boil. Made of gold nanoparticles tens of billionths of a meter wide affixed to a scaffold pocked with tiny channels, or “nanopores,” the material is a deep black color because it reflects very little visible light. It is 99 percent efficient at absorbing light in the visible spectrum and parts of the infrared spectrum, researchers report April 8 in Science Advances.

Thanks to its highly porous structure, the material floats on the surface of water, allowing it to soak up the sun’s rays. When light of a certain wavelength hits a gold nanoparticle inside one of the nanopores, it stirs up the electrons on the surface, sloshing them back in forth in an oscillation known as a plasmon. These plasmons produce localized, intense heating, which vaporizes the water nearby.

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