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Noble metal colloidal nanoparticles and lithographic nanostructures have become a useful tools for ultrasensitive detection at the single-molecule level and to control light at the nanoscale. They sustain collective optical excitations (plasmons) that depend on particle size, morphology, and composition. The understanding of these excitations from a theoretical point of view is thus an important ingredient in the development of new applications to sensing and optical signal processing. We are contributing to this effort with innovative theoretical techniques and proposals for novel applications.