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Gold nanoclusters could protect against destructive lasers

30 August 2012

A researcher has developed a new material using nanotechnology, which could help keep pilots and sensitive equipment safe from destructive lasers.

Jayan Thomas in his lab at UCF
Jayan Thomas in his lab at UCF

University of Central Florida assistant professor Jayan Thomas is currently working with gold nanoparticles and studying their properties when they are shrunk into a small size regime called nanoclusters.

"Nanoclusters occupy the intriguing quantum size regime between atoms and nanocrystals, and the synthesis of ultra-small, atomically precise metal nanoclusters is a challenging task," Thomas said.

Thomas and his team found that nanoclusters developed by adding atoms in a sequential manner could provide interesting optical properties. Gold nanoclusters exhibit qualities that may make them suitable for creating surfaces that would diffuse high-energy laser beams.

Commercial and fighter pilots use sunglasses or helmet shields to protect their eyes from the sun's light. If these glasses or helmet shields can be coated with the nanoclusters that are being investigated at UCF, the shield could potentially diffuse high-energy lasers. Highly sensitive instruments needed for navigation and other applications could also be protected in case of an attack using high energy lasers.

Because nanoclusters appear to have a better ability to diffuse high beams of energy, they are a promising area for future development. There is still plenty of applications to be explored using these very interesting atomically engineered materials. Until now, much research has been focused on the larger nanocrystal.

Thomas is also exploring the use of these particles in the polymer material used for 3D telepresence to make it more sensitive to light. If successful, it can take the current polymers a step closer to developing real time 3D telepresence.

3D-Telepresence provides a holographic illusion to a viewer who is present in another location by giving that person a 360-degree view (in 3D) of everything that's going on around them. It's a step beyond 3D and is expected to revolutionise the way people see television and in how they participate in activities around the world, such as remotely guided surgery. 

This work is published in the July issue of the journal Nano Letters. (

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