Hybrid Plasmonic–Aerogel Materials as Optical Superheaters with Engineered Resonances

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energy conversion, gold nanorods, hybrid aerogel, photoheaters, surface plasmon resonance


© 2020 The Authors. Published by Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA. Solar radiation is a versatile source of energy, convertible to different forms of power. A direct path to exploit it is the generation of heat, for applications including passive building heating, but it can also drive secondary energy-conversion steps. We present a novel concept for a hybrid material which is both strongly photo-absorbing and with superior characteristics for the insulation of heat. The combination of that two properties is rather unique, and make this material an optical superheater. To realize such a material, we are combining plasmonic nanoheaters with alumina aerogel. The aerogel has the double function of providing structural support for plasmonic nanocrystals, which serve as nanoheaters, and reducing the diffusion rate of the heat generated by them, resulting in large local temperature increases under a relatively low radiation intensity. This work includes theoretical discussion on the physical mechanisms impacting the system's balanced thermal equilibrium.