Isabell Thomann

Assistant Professor

Department: Physics and Astronomy; Electrical and Computer Engineering; Materials Science and NanoEngineering

Office Phone: (713) 348-4392


Research Areas

Research Description

Prof. Thomann utilizes the latest advances in nanofabrication, synthesis and self- assembly of nanoscale materials architectures to control the flow of light and the concomitant charge carrier and phonon dynamics. By combining nanoscale and atomically-engineered building blocks, she designs so-called metamaterials, materials with properties that cannot be found in nature.

Her areas of interest include the exploitation of quantum effects in low-dimensional materials to control chemical reactions at their surfaces, the atomic-scale engineering of photocatalysts for solar fuel generation, and the study of quantum effects in photocatalysis that arise from the granularity of the electromagnetic fields on atomic scales.

To achieve a profound understanding of atomically engineered metamaterials, her group employs state-of-the art ultrafast laser spectroscopy techniques and nano-characterization tools to simultaneously achieve nanometer spatial resolution, femtosecond temporal resolution and high chemical specificity. Applications of the investigated optical metamaterials range from solar energy conversion, energy storage, thermal management and environmental remediation.


Dr. Isabell Thomann is an expert in nanophotonics, plasmonics, photoelectrochemistry, and ultrafast spectroscopy. She has experience with the creation and characterization of attosecond laser pulses and demonstrated that surface plasmons can be engineered for strong light concentration close to an electrode-liquid interface for more efficient H2O splitting. She received her Master’s degree in physics at ETH Zuerich, and her PhD in physics at JILA, University of Colorado at Boulder. She then moved to Stanford University, where she was a postdoctoral fellow, and worked with chemical engineers, materials scientists, electrical engineers, chemists and applied physicists, investigating novel photoelectrode structures based on metallic (plasmonic) and dielectric nanostructures to enhance photoelectrochemical processes for energy applications. She is the recipient of an NSF CAREER Award (2014). She is also the chairwoman of the IEEE Photonics Society – Houston Chapter, and was the PI and event coordinator of the recent Army Research Office sponsored “Workshop on surface plasmons, metamaterials, and catalysis” at Rice University, October 21-23, 2013.

Selected Publications

1. “Light trapping for solar fuel generation with Mie resonances”
Kim, S.J.; Thomann, I.; Park, J.; Kang, J.-H.; Vasudev, A.; Brongersma, M.L.,
Nano Lett. 2014, 14 (3), pp 1446–1452

2. “Self-Assembly Based Plasmonic Arrays Tuned by Atomic Layer Deposition for Extreme Visible Light Absorption”
Hägglund, C.; Zeltzer, G.; Ruiz, R.; Thomann, I.; Lee, H.-B.-R.; Brongersma, M.L.; and Bent, S.F.,
Nano Lett. 2013, 13, 3352−3357

3. “Plasmon Enhanced Solar-to-Fuel Energy Conversion”
Thomann, I.; Pinaud, B.A.; Chen, Z.; Clemens, B.M.; Jaramillo, T.F.; Brongersma, M.L.,
Nano Lett. 2011, 11, 3440–3446

4. “Scanning Photoionization Microscopy: Ultrafast Plasmon-Mediated Electron Ejection Dynamics in Au Nanorods”
Schweikhard, V.; Grubisic, A.; Baker, T. A.; Thomann, I.; Nesbitt, D. J.,
ACS Nano, 2011, 5 (5), pp 3724–3735

5. “Characterizing isolated attosecond pulses from hollow-core waveguides using multi-cycle driving pulses“
Thomann, I.; Bahabad, A.; Liu, X.; Trebino, R.;  Murnane, M. M.; Kapteyn, H. C., Optics Express, v 17, n 6, 16 March 2009, p 4611- 4633

6. “Direct Measurement of the Angular Dependence of the Single-Photon Ionization of Aligned N2 and CO2
Thomann, I.; Lock, R.; Sharma, V.; Gagnon, E.; Pratt, S.T.; Kapteyn, H.; Murnane, M.; Li, W., J. Phys. Chem. A, v 112, n 39, 2008, p 9382  (Stephen Leone Festschrift)

7. “Temporal characterization of attosecond waveforms in the sub-optical cycle regime“
Thomann, I.; Gregonis, E.; Liu, X.; Trebino, R.; Sandhu, A.; Murnane, M.; Kapteyn, H., Physical Review A, v 78, 011806(R) (2008).

Recent Publications