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  • Professor Naomi Halas
    10/12/17 -
    9:45 AM to 11:00 AM

    Etter Memorial Lecture: Professor Naomi J. Halas

    Margaret C. Etter Memorial Lecture in Materials Chemistry

"Plasmonics: from noble metals to sustainability"

Metallic nanoparticles, used since antiquity to impart intense and vibrant color into materials, have more recently become a central tool in the nanoscale manipulation of light. This interest has led to a virtual explosion of new types of metal-based nanoparticles and nanostructures of various shapes and compositions, and has given rise to new strategies to harvest, control, and manipulate light based on metallic nanostructures and their properties. As one begins to assemble metallic nanoparticles into useful building blocks, a striking parallel between the plasmons—the collective electronic oscillations—of these structures and wave functions of simple quantum systems is universally observed. Clusters of metallic nanoparticles behave like coupled oscillators, introducing effects characteristic of systems as diverse as radio frequency transmitters and coupled pendulums into light-driven nanoscale structures. Plasmons decay by producing hot electrons, a property appearing to be highly useful in applications ranging from photodetection to photocatalysis. In particular, new “antenna-reactor” photocatalysts can be designed by combining plasmonic nanoparticles with directly adjacent catalytic particles or materials, rendering the heterocomplexes photocatalytic. While our scientific foundation for the field of Plasmonics has been built on nanoparticles consisting of noble and coinage metals, more recently we have begun to question whether the same, or similar, plasmonic properties can also be realized in more sustainable materials. Aluminum, the most abundant metal on our planet, can support high-quality plasmonic properties across the visible region of the spectrum, enabling practical large-area and cost-effective plasmonic applications such as flat-panel displays, robust colorimetric sensors, and selective ethylene synthesis. Graphene is an outstanding active plasmonic material, however, it can be tuned from the infrared into the visible region of the spectrum only by miniaturization to the true molecular limit. Sustainable plasmonic materials allow us to envision entirely new applications, for example, direct solar distillation that can provide drinkable water, entirely independent of grid-based electrical power.


Professor Halas’ research group is focused on four principal missions:

  • to design new optically active nanostructures driven by function;
  • to develop and implement new nanofabrication strategies to build, orient, and pattern these nanostructures into new materials and devices;
  • to characterize and understand the physical properties of these optically active nanostructures, devices and materials; and
  • to prototype the use of optically active nanostructures in applications of potential technological and broad societal interest.

Professor Halas

Professor Halas is the Stanley C. Moore Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, and founding director of the Laboratory for Nanophotonics at Rice University. She is the Director of the Smalley-Curl Institute.

She was a graduate research fellow at IBM Research, Yorktown, NY, served as a postdoctoral associate at AT&T Bell Laboratories and joined the Rice faculty in 1990. Halas is one of the pioneering researchers in the field of plasmonics, creating the concept of the “tunable plasmon” and inventing a family of nanoparticles with resonances spanning the visible and infrared regions of the spectrum. Halas pursues fundamental studies of coupled plasmonic systems as well as applications of plasmonics in biomedicine, optoelectronics, chemical sensing, photocatalysis, and most recently in solar energy and sustainability, with ‘solar steam’ technology. She is author of more than 300 refereed publications, has more than 15 issued patents, has presented more than 500 invited talks, and has been cited more than 40,000 times. She is co-founder of Nanospectra Biosciences, a Houston-based company developing photothermal therapies for cancer and other diseases based on her nanoparticles, currently in multiple clinical trials, and is currently transferring other technologies from her laboratory. Halas is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering in 2014, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is a recipient of the American Physical Society Frank Isakson Prize for Optical Effects in Solids, the Willis E. Lamb Award, and the Wood Prize of the Optical Society of America. She is a Fellow of OSA, APS, SPIE, IEEE, MRS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Academy of Inventors. She has been a National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellow of the U.S. Department of Defense and an adviser to the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate of the National Science Foundation. She is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of ACS Photonics, Materials Horizons, Chemical Physics Letters and Laser and Photonics Reviews, and an associate editor of Nano Letters.

Margaret C. Etter Memorial Lecture in Materials Chemistry

Margaret “Peggy” Cairns Etter was born on September 12, 1943. She died on June 10, 1992, from cancer. In 1974, she received her doctorate in chemistry from the University of Minnesota under the direction of Jack Gougoutas. She taught organic chemistry at Augsburg College in 1975-76, and worked at the 3M Company from 1976 to 1983. She returned to the University of Minnesota as a post-doctoral fellow with Robert Bryant in 1984 and, within a year, had secured an independent academic appointment. Peggy rose rapidly through the ranks and, in 1990, was promoted to full professor. Peggy’s outstanding characteristics as a scientist were her infectious enthusiasm, uncompromising scientific standards, and creativity. Her research group made major contributions in the applications of solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, the design and properties of organic non-linear optical materials, and most significantly, in the understanding and utilization of hydrogen-bonding interactions in crystals. This was reflected in nearly 80 research papers and in several landmark review articles in prestigious journals. Outside recognition in the form of fellowships from the Sloan and Bush Foundations and an Iota Sigma Pi Award for Excellence in Chemistry represent incomplete reflections of the impact of this work. One of her extramural “side projects” was to found a company called “Rochelle Crystal Corporation,” for which Peggy was named St. Paul Businessperson of the Year in 1986.

  • Event Details

    Location: 331 Smith Hall
    Host: Professor Christy Haynes
    • Professor Naomi Halas
    • Naomi Halas
    • Laboratory for Nanophotonics
    • Rice University
    • Houston

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