The Center for Nano Science and Technology (CNST) is one node of the network established by the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia with Italian academies in order to foster synergy in the national research. The mission of the center is "innovation", therefore the goal of the CNST scientific team is to transfer new basic knowledge into new applications.
CNST has a focus on material science, and it is able to conduct the complete production line, from conceiving and realizing a new material to its application in devices, through a comprehensive characterization. The areas of competence are Material Chemistry, Molecular Electronics, Printed Electronics, Nanotechnology Fabrication and Optical-Photophysical-Morphological and Theoretical Characterization.
The main research projects are:
Printed and Molecular Electronics
Solution processable conjugated organic semiconductors allow environmentally friendly fabrication processes, such as additive printing techniques, for the mass production of cheap large-area electronics. The aim of research at CNST is to favor the transition from lab-scale single devices to next generation flexible, lightweight and large-area optoelectronic systems. A short list of activities includes:
- direct-written organic field-effect transistors and complementary organic logic circuits for robust applications in RFID tags and display drivers;
- inkjet printed organic passive pixels for active-matrix digital imagers;
- roll-to-roll fabrication of polymer photovoltaics.
Protein crystallography for bioimaging applications and biomaterials characterization
Imaging methods are among the most powerful diagnostic tools in medicine. At the CNST, the structure-guided approach is used to produce new classes of organic dyes that can be employed as simple, non-invasive and inexpensive early-detection tools for the diagnosis of diseases such as ulcerative colitis and cancer. Pathogens, allergens and environmental pollutants can cause severe alterations in the structure and the integrity of the epithelial tissue. CNST groups study the molecular basis of the interaction between some external agents and the body's first line of defense and the way such interaction may affect the tissue stability.
Synthesis of smart materials
Organic functional materials for applications in optics, optoelectronics and photonics are designed and synthesized. Combinatorial chemistry, joined with spectroscopic characterization and theoretical modeling, is conducted to understand the structure/function relationships, to provide a coordinated contribution to the advancement of knowledge and to the development of optimized technological features. The two main research topics concern photochromic switches for smart optics and conjugated molecules for solution processed photosensitive active layers.
Organic materials for biological applications and biomimetic devices
Organic bio-electronics is a spreading research field that studies the functional interaction of organic materials with biological elements. CNST activity exploits organic specific features for the improvement of bio-compatible and mechanical applications such as: the realization of active opto-neuronal interfaces (in collaboration with IIT NBT-NSYN Department), the investigation of polymer/liquid interphases (also for water splitting applications), and the realization of an organic, space-variant, human retina-like artificial vision system.
Nanostructured materials and interfaces for energy applications
CNST also exploits the self-assembly of elemental building blocks in the gas-phase, to develop novel nanostructured materials whose properties are controllable from the atomic to the meso-scale. The main efforts are related to: hierarchical TiO2 nanostructures for dye-sensitized and hybrid solar cells and H2 production, Si quantum dots for third generation nanoscale photovoltaic devices, nanostructured high performance barrier layers, transparent conducting oxides and novel, high throughput deposition techniques for nanostructured materials.
Third generation photovoltaics
This activity is focused on the study of solid state excitonic solar cells including all-organic, dye-sensitized, and hybrid solar cells in which semiconducting polymers are interfaced with inorganic quantum dots or nanostructured inorganic semiconductors. The main goals are the enhancement of the cell performances by gaining control on the active compounds interplay and the investigation of new mechanisms and device architectures. The research regards the study of new materials for light harvesting, charge separation and transport (including interlayers and dyes, nanostructured photoanodes and new electrolytes), devices fabrication and advanced electrical and spectroscopy investigation.