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The main areas of research of the Nanoscience Laboratory (NL) are neuromorphic photonics, integrated quantum photonics, linear and nonlinear silicon photonics and nanobiotechnologies. The mission of NL is to generate new knowledge, to develop understanding and to spin-off applications from physical phenomena associated with photons and their interactions with matter, particularly when it is nanostructured. NL covers the whole food chain from fundamental phenomena to device applications with a platform compatible with the main driving silicon microelectronic technologies. However, silicon is not the only material studied. Other fields of interest concern the use of cellulose to tailor the properties of nanostructure atom-by-atom or the use of perovskites to investigate their new properties.

 

Silicon Nanophotonics

Silicon photonics is the technology where photonic devices are produced by standard microelectronic processes using the same paradigm of electronics: integration of a large number of devices to yield a high circuit complexity, which allows for high performances and low costs. Here, the truth is to develop photonic devices that can be easily integrated to improve the single device performance and to allow high volume production. In the next year we will mostly concentrate on two alternative approaches where photonics is used to compute. On one side we will develop new scheme to implement artificial intelligence in a photonic silicon chip by using neuromorphic computing schemes. Particular care will be devoted to the realization of hybrid circuits where photonics chips are interfaced to biological neuronal networks. On the other side, we will use silicon photonics to provide a suitable platform for quantum computing and quantum simulations. In both approaches the fundamental device is the silicon microresonator where whispering gallery modes induce nonlinearities which can be exploited to generate new quantum states of light or to realize recurrent neural network. In addition, we use micro-disks or micro-rings to study new physics (chirality, frequency comb generation, entangled photon generation). To develop silicon photonics, one further add-on is making silicon to do something that it is not able to do in its standard (bulk) form. Low dimensional silicon, where small silicon nanocrystals or nanoclusters (Si-nc) are developed, is one way to compel silicon to act as an active optical material. Alternatively, we use the built-in or p-i-n induced electric fields to tune the non-linear optical properties of silicon waveguides for the development of new MIR sources (parametric generation via second order effects or frequency comb generation).

 

Nanobiotechnologies, antioxidants and human health

All the aspects related to the nano-bio interfaces (which are the structures where the co-existence of physical principles and biological molecules is clearly evident) are a challenging field of research. Though the leading research concerns the design, synthesis and dynamic behavior of nanostructured bio-interfaces, more specifically we are working on three research topics: silicon- and titanium based nanosystems, single molecule detection, and antioxidant behavior in micelle systems, polymers and nanoporous structures.  Beyond traditional sensor applications, silicon nanostructures can be used as “nanosensors”, which monitor the intracellular events without introducing irreversible perturbations. To this regard light emitting silicon quantum dots appear very promising. We are studying the nanoparticle coating to increase optical stability and decrease toxicity, moreover conjugation to biological molecules and strategies to increase cell uptake and control intracellular localization are future steps of this research. Titanium nanotubes showing hydroxyl-rich interfaces have been synthesized. These nanosystems are easily dispersed and stable in aqueous solutions and show a high photocatalytic activity.

 

Group members

Head Lorenzo Pavesi
Professors Paolo BettottiZeno GaburroLorenzo PavesiMarina Scarpa
Researchers Stefano AzziniMattia MancinelliEnver Sangineto (DISI), Beatrice Vignoli
Postdocs Stefano Signorini
PhD students Davide BazzanellaStefano BiasiNicolò LeoneSara PiccioneChiara VecchiClara Zaccaria
Borsisti postlaurea Riccardo Franchi
Technical staff Giorgio FontanaEnrico Moser
Administrative staff Chiara Rindone