Department of Physics & Astronomy
University of New Mexico

Physics and Astronomy Colloquium

From sunlight to fresh water: nanoscale photothermal effects for desalination

Presented by Alessandro Alabastri, Rice University

Nanosized structures have been study extensively in the last decades for a wide range of applications: from drug delivery to tissue engineering, from manufacturing to electronics. One aspect of nanostructures properties is their peculiar interaction with electromagnetic fields. In particular, metallic nanoparticles (NPs) are capable to couple an incident radiation, such as sunlight, into bounded electronic oscillations, called plasmons, thus effectively squeezing the electromagnetic energy in narrow regions. Such energy is then either scattered or converted into heat. Other types of non-metallic NPs, while being generally less tunable, can provide large light-heat conversion efficiencies on a wide spectrum.

Recently, we have introduced the concept of nanophotonics-enabled solar membrane distillation (NESMD), where solar-driven localized heat drives the distillation process. NESMD is scalable in size, avoids temperature polarization and employs low cost materials. Moreover, the desalination efficiency was found to increase by simply redistributing the photon flux incident on the nanoparticles, suggesting the possibility to reduce the process footprint utilizing miniaturized optics in place of more costly and bulky optical concentrators.

3:30 pm, Friday, February 21, 2020
1100, PAIS


Disability NoticeIndividuals with disabilities who need an auxiliary aid or service to attend or participate in P&A events should contact Sandra Ortiz (phone: 505-277-5900, email: well in advance to ensure your needs are accomodated. Event handouts can be provided in alternative accessible formats upon request. Please contact Mrs. Ortiz if you need written information in an alternative format.

A schedule of talks within the Department of Physics and Astronomy is available on the P&A web site at