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Nanotech Solution Could Block Laser Beams from Aircraft

Jayan Thomas (University of Central Florida)

Jayan Thomas (University of Central Florida)

Researchers at University of Central Florida in Orlando and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh created a new material based on nanotechnology that could keep lasers from affecting aircraft pilots and sensitive equipment. Optical science professor Jayan Thomas of Central Florida’s NanoScience Technology Center (pictured right) led the team, which published its findings last month in the journal Nano Letters; paid subscription required.

Thomas’s research involves configuring gold nanoscale particles — 1 nanometer equals 1 billionth of a meter —  into clusters, a collection on a size continuum between single atoms and larger nanocrystals. The researchers found they could calibrate the size of the nanoclusters by sequentially adding atoms to them. Thomas notes that “the synthesis of ultra-small, atomically precise metal nanoclusters is a challenging task.”

In the case of these gold nanoclusters, the task yielded results with potential optical applications. Thomas and colleagues found the small gold nanoclusters have properties that make them suitable for creating surfaces that diffuse high energy laser beams.

For aircraft pilots, these gold nanoclusters could be added to their glasses, goggles, or face shields to diffuse dangerous laser beams emitted from careless individuals or those seeking to interfere with the pilot. The discovery could also be applied to sensitive equipment for navigation or aircraft control, to protect against high-energy laser-based weapons.

Thomas’s lab is exploring the use of these gold nanoparticles in polymers used with three-dimensional telepresence to make it more sensitive to light. A 3-D telepresence provides a holographic illusion to a viewer who is present in another location by giving that person a 360-degree 3-D view of everything in the field of view.

Images in a 3-D telepresence are a step beyond conventional 3-D and are expected to change the way people see television and in how they participate in remote activities. For example, by allowing a viewer to explore a remote location as if participating in a virtual game, a surgeon could help execute a medical procedure from thousands of miles away.

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