Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but it can be transferred and transformed. Sadly it can be pretty difficult to change one kind of energy into another, and then move it to where you can use it. Researchers at Rice University however have successfully made some measurements that may help with that in one kind of system.
Light is a very abundant energy source, but efficiently converting it into electricity, or another more useful energy type is not easy. Plasmonic nanoparticles may be able to help with that, as they can capture the energy of a photon and couple it to an electron. Previously Rice researchers have demonstrated using such nanoparticles to instantly boil ice-cold water into steam. Instead of converting the optical energy into heat, the researchers would like to make it into electricity using hot electrons. These electrons have been disturbed by the plasmons and absorb some of its energy, but their behavior is not well understood. The researchers decided to change that and got to work measuring how quickly hot electrons can transfer from one material to another.
While this research is still far away from a practical use, it could lead to such applications as photodetectors and catalysts. As more work is done, more potential uses will likely be imagined.
Source: Rice University