Scientists can now control thermal profiles at the nanoscale

phys.org | 2/19/2015 | Staff
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At human scale, controlling temperature is a straightforward concept. Turtles sun themselves to keep warm. To cool a pie fresh from the oven, place it on a room-temperature countertop.

At the nanoscale—at distances less than 1/100th the width of the thinnest human hair—controlling temperature is much more difficult. Nanoscale distances are so small that objects easily become thermally coupled: If one object heats up to a certain temperature, so does its neighbor.

Scientists - Beam - Light - Heat - Source

When scientists use a beam of light as that heat source, there is an additional challenge: Thanks to heat diffusion, materials in the beam path heat up to approximately the same temperature, making it difficult to manipulate the thermal profiles of objects within the beam. Scientists have never been able to use light alone to actively shape and control thermal landscapes at the nanoscale.

At least, not until now.

Paper - July - Journal - ACS - Nano

In a paper published online July 30 by the journal ACS Nano, a team of researchers reports that they have designed and tested an experimental system that uses a near-infrared laser to actively heat two gold nanorod antennae—metal rods designed and built at the nanoscale—to different temperatures. The nanorods are so close together that they are both electromagnetically and thermally coupled. Yet the team, led by researchers at the University of Washington, Rice University and Temple University, measured temperature differences between the rods as high as 20 degrees Celsius. By simply changing the wavelength of the laser, they could also change which nanorod was cooler and which was warmer, even though the rods were made of the same material.

"If you put two similar objects next to each other on a table, ordinarily you would expect them to be at the same temperature. The same is true at the nanoscale," said lead corresponding author David Masiello, a UW professor of chemistry and faculty member...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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