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The IdEA Laboratory brings together materials scientists from physics and chemistry backgrounds to work on innovative materials for applications in four main areas: energy, environment, aerospace, and sensors. Materials design is application-oriented and based on an array of available fabrication methods comprising: pulsed laser deposition (PLD) and ablation (PLA), radio-frequency magnetron sputtering (RF-MS), evaporation (e-gun and Joule effect), wet-chemistry and spin-coating. In the laboratory several analytical techniques are available, in particular scanning electron microscopy, differential scanning calorimetry,  thermal desorption spectroscopy, etc.

Solar energy conversion and storage: At the IdEA laboratory we develop materials and processes for sunlight conversion and storage, following two main lines of research: Photoelectrochemical Cells (PECs) and Solar-Hydrothermal conversion. PEC technology is a route to solar fuels, where solar energy is converted into the chemical bonds of high energy-density molecules, such as H2 from water splitting or CO2 reduction products. In a PEC cell, the absorption of UV-visible photons at photoelectrodes leads to the separation of electron-hole pairs which then  drive catalytic fuel-forming redox reactions. We focus on environmentally friendly materials such as Fe, W and Ti derivatives, to enhance and tune their performance and properties by controlling their structure at the nanometric level. In the framework of project ERiCSol with DICAM and DII engineering departments, we’re also developing a solar-powered thermochemical process to store sunlight energy by converting biomass into valuable biofuels and carbon-based products. This is achieved by coupling a solar concentrator with a hydrothermal reactor, both designed and realized in-house.

Photocatalysis: The use of photocatalysis to destroy pollutants provides a sustainable and cost-effective route to wastewater remediation, especially when powered by sunlight. At the IdEA lab we focus on materials based on cheap and scalable elements (Fe, Ti, Co), designed to operate with concentrated sunlight and implemented as coating featuring 3D hierarchical micro/nanostructuring to maximize their performance.

Laser ablation technologies for space applications: In collaboration with the Astro-Particle Physics group, we design and fabricate materials to investigate applications of the laser ablation process to space science, such as the propulsion of small-size satellites and space-debris removal. The experimental activity is complemented by simulations and theoretical studies related to the gasdynamic processes governing the laser ablation processes.

Synthesis and optical functionalization of nanomaterials: Nanomaterials, for example nanodiamonds or silicon-carbide nanopowders, are at the core of many future applications. Their synthesis and optical functionalization is an important step toward their use in many fields, such as biosensing, photocatalysis, and sensing of magnetic/electric fields in harsh environments. Within this research line we are addressing viable routes for nanodiamonds synthesis, magneto-optical characterization, and device development. 

Membranes: The separation of gas mixtures by thin barriers (membranes) occurs as consequence of the different permeation rates of the gas mixture components: this technology has acquired a significant role in the industrial scenario because gas separation requires simple, easy to operate and compact equipments. Research in the IdEA lab aims to synthetize, characterize and test innovative polymer nanocomposites for gas separation membranes consisting of biopolymers such as PLA and PHB- derived materials with nanoparticles such as graphene- derived structures (graphene nanoplatelets, graphene oxide) or nanocellulose (cellulose nanofibrils and nanocrystals) as dispersed additive.

Supercapacitors: Supercapacitors are electrochemical energy storage devices that store and release energy by reversible adsorption and desorption of ions at the interfaces between electrode materials and electrolytes. SC are constructed with electrodes made of high surface area materials and huge capacitance values can be obtained because charge separation occurs in the nanometric- sized electric double layer that form at the electrode-electrolyte interface. Research in the IdEA lab aims to synthetize, characterize and test innovative electrode materials made using carbon nanostructures (graphene, nanotubes), nanocomposites of conducting polymers and green materials. 

Main collaborations: Being multidisciplinar, our reasearch greatly benefits from a network of collaborators providing an array of skills and techniques complementing our own:
University of Mumbai, Department of Physics – PECs and photocatalysis
University of Liverpool, School of Engineering – structural characterization
University of Ferrara, Department of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences – PECs


Group members

Head Antonio Miotello
Professors Riccardo ChecchettoAntonio Miotello
Postdoc Michele Orlandi
PhD students Luca Basso, Asma El Golli (dottoranda Erasmus+ICM), Murilo Alexandre Fendrich (dottorando in Materiali, Meccatronica e Ingegneria dei Sistemi), Giulia Ischia (Dottoranda in Ingegneria Civile Ambientale e Meccanica), Yaksh J. PopatJacopo Terragni
Technical staff Nicola BazzanellaMarco BettonteMassimo Cazzanelli
Permanent collaborators Claudio CestariLuigino Vivaldi