Étudiant-chercheur étoile September 2013

Étienne Boulais

PhD student in Physics Engineering
École polytechnique de Montréal

Award-winning publication: Plasma Mediated off-Resonance Plasmonic Enhanced Ultrafast Laser-Induced Nanocavitation

Published in: Nano Letters, 12(9): 4763-4769


"The electromagnetic energy transferred by laser waves and absorbed by nanoparticles generates tiny bubbles around the nanoparticles, enhancing cancer detection and treatment. Current approaches consist in using a long-pulse laser to overheat the nanostructure of the particles in order to create a bubble—a process that also destroys the particles. My study describes an approach to circumvent this problem through the use of an ultrafast laser that is only minimally absorbed by the nanoparticle, which acts as a lens to concentrate its energy. The energy is then directly absorbed into the cell medium, and the cell remains intact. The research demonstrates that laser irradiation generates an excited nanometric plasma around the particle and that this plasma, not the heated particle, creates the bubble."

Étienne Boulais' work elucidates laser irradiation to bubble generation mechanisms in cells. The bubbles that are created could eventually be used to pierce the membranes of cancerous cells and introduce new behaviour-modifying genes as part of gene therapies. The method advanced in this study constitutes a promising avenue in diagnostic and therapeutic oncology research.