Experimental and theoretical studies of light-to-heat conversion and collective heating effects in metal nanoparticle solutions

Nano Lett. 2009 Mar;9(3):1139-46. doi: 10.1021/nl8036905.


We perform a set of experiments on photoheating in a water droplet containing gold nanoparticles (NPs). Using photocalorimetric methods, we determine efficiency of light-to-heat conversion (eta) which turns out to be remarkably close to 1, (0.97 < eta < 1.03). Detailed studies reveal a complex character of heat transfer in an optically stimulated droplet. The main mechanism of equilibration is due to convectional flow. Theoretical modeling is performed to describe thermal effects at both nano- and millimeter scales. Theory shows that the collective photoheating is the main mechanism. For a large concentration of NPs and small laser intensity, an averaged temperature increase (at the millimeter scale) is significant (approximately 7 degrees C), whereas on the nanometer scale the temperature increase at the surface of a single NP is small (approximately 0.02 degrees C). In the opposite regime, that is, a small NP concentration and intense laser irradiation, we find an opposite picture: a temperature increase at the millimeter scale is small (0.1 degrees C) but a local, nanoscale temperature has strong local spikes at the surfaces of NPs (approximately 3 degrees C). These studies are crucial for the understanding of photothermal effects in NPs and for their potential and current applications in nano- and biotechnologies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Energy Transfer
  • Gold / chemistry*
  • Hot Temperature
  • Lasers
  • Light
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Models, Statistical
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Nanotechnology / methods*
  • Optics and Photonics
  • Temperature
  • Time Factors


  • Gold