About 15 years ago, Halas and Rice bioengineering researcher Jennifer West hit upon the idea of using nanoshells to treat cancer. The treatment derives from the ability of nanoshells to convert light into heat. By tuning the nanoshells to interact with near-infrared light -- an invisible wavelength that shines through skin and muscle -- Halas and West demonstrated they could use nanoshells to destroy cancer with heat. The method, which avoids the detrimental side effects often associated with chemotherapy, is now in clinical trials.
Halas also has published dozens of papers about the basic science of nanophotonics, often in collaboration with Peter Nordlander, her spouse and longtime research partner at Rice. Nordlander, a theoretical physicist who specializes in nano-optics, first met Halas when the two were working at IBM. In their longstanding collaborative work at Rice, Halas and Nordlander have addressed a broad spectrum of topics ranging from fundamental physics and electromagnetic theory to chemical nanofabrication and light-harvesting applications. In October, they, along with Tony Heinz of Columbia University, were jointly awarded the 2014 Frank Isakson Prize for Optical Effects in Solids in recognition of their groundbreaking research.
In their most recent work, Halas and Nordlander created a revolutionary new technology in 2012 that uses nanoparticles to convert solar energy directly into steam. The new "solar steam" method is so effective it can even produce steam from ice-cold water. Halas is working to develop the technology for sanitation and water-purification applications in the developing world.
Halas said she finds research just as exciting today as when she began her career.
"There is nothing like it," she said. "I think most people believe that because scientists are objective and methodical that they aren't passionate. That couldn't be further from the
|Contact: David Ruth|