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Nanophotonics expert Naomi Halas elected to U.S. National Academy of Sciences

02 May 2013

photo of SPIE Fellow Naomi HalasSPIE Fellow Naomi Halas, one of the world's most-cited experts in nanophotonics and a pioneering researcher in the field of plasmonics, has been elected to U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

She is one of 84 new members and 21 foreign associates elected to the NAS, one of the highest honors conferred on a U.S. scientist or engineer.

Halas is the Stanley C. Moore Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rice University and a professor of biomedical engineering, chemistry, physics, and astronomy. She also is director of the Rice Quantum Institute and founding director of the Laboratory for Nanophotonics, where "nanorice" was invented in 2006.

She specializes in studying how light interacts with engineered nanoparticles. Her research spans a broad spectrum from electromagnetic theory to chemical nanofabrication. Her lab has created and studied dozens of new nanoparticles that are engineered to interact with light in specific ways, often to perform a function in unique applications that have societal and technological impact.

For example, Halas invented gold nanoshells and pioneered a nanoshell-based treatment that is in clinical trials for both lung cancer and for head and neck cancer. Nanoparticles encased in a thin shell of gold are absorbed by tumors but not healthy tissue, so tissue-penetrating laser light can destroy cancer tumors with virtually no damage to nearby healthy tissue.

Halas is scheduled to give a keynote presentation at SPIE Optics + Photonics in August on a revolutionary new technology she unveiled in 2012 that uses nanoparticles to convert solar energy directly into steam. The new "solar steam" method can produce steam from icy cold water. Halas is working to develop the technology for sanitation and water-purification applications in the developing world.

She has authored or co-authored some 20 conference and journal articles in the SPIE Digital Library and was a plenary speaker at SPIE Optics + Photonics in 2011.