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Stephan Link wants to understand how nanomaterials align, and his lab’s latest work is a step in the right direction. Link’s Rice University group has found a way to use gold nanorods as orientation sensors by combining their plasmonic properties with polarization imaging techniques.

That may make it possible to see and perhaps track single nanoparticles over long periods. It would give researchers new information about materials, including living systems, that incorporate them. “With a spherical particle, you don’t have any information about how it’s oriented,” said Link, an assistant professor of chemistry and electrical and computer engineering at Rice. “We wanted to see if we could determine the orientation of the nanorods, and eventually we’d like to be able to measure the orientation of the environment they’re in. We think this technique could be really useful for that.”

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