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ACS Nano. 2014 Feb 25;8(2):1439-48. doi: 10.1021/nn405267r. Epub 2014 Feb 10.

Comparison of vapor formation of water at the solid/water interface to colloidal solutions using optically excited gold nanostructures.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Ohio University , Athens, Ohio 45701, United States.


The phase transformation properties of liquid water to vapor is characterized by optical excitation of the lithographically fabricated single gold nanowrenches and contrasted to the phase transformation properties of gold nanoparticles located and optically excited in a bulk solution system [two and three dimensions]. The 532 nm continuous wave excitation of a single gold nanowrench results in superheating of the water to the spinodal decomposition temperature of 580 ± 20 K with bubble formation below the spinodal decomposition temperature being a rare event. Between the spinodal decomposition temperature and the boiling point liquid water is trapped into a metastable state because a barrier to vapor nucleation exists that must be overcome before the thermodynamically stable state is realized. The phase transformation for an optically heated single gold nanowrench is different from the phase transformation of optically excited colloidal gold nanoparticles solution where collective heating effects dominates and leads to the boiling of the solution exactly at the boiling point. In the solution case, the optically excited ensemble of nanoparticles collectively raises the ambient temperature of water to the boiling point where liquid is converted into vapor. The striking difference in the boiling properties of the single gold nanowrench and the nanoparticle solution system can be explained in terms of the vapor-nucleation mechanism, the volume of the overheated liquid, and the collective heating effect. The interpretation of the observed regimes of heating and vaporization is consistent with our theoretical modeling. In particular, we explain with our theory why the boiling with the collective heating in a solution requires 3 orders of magnitude less intensity compared to the case of optically driven single nanowrench.

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