Research area

Unit: Inorganic and inorgano-organic solids with layered and framework structure: synthesis, characterization and application in catalysys, photochemistry and polymer nanocomposites

Design, synthesis and structural characterization of layered and framework inorganic and inorgano-organic solids including metal phosphonates and modified hydrotalcites.
Development of heterogeneous catalysts, based on synthetic hydrotalcites, for process of interest in the field of renewable energy exploitation.
Synthesis of zirconium phosphate and hydrotalcite nanoparticles to be used as fillers of polymer nanocomposites. Studies on exfoliation and aspect ratio of the nanoparticles.
Development of nanocomposites with enhanced thermal, mechanical and barrier properties based on biodegradable polymers filled with layered zirconium phosphate, phosphonates and hydrotalcites.
Studies on proton transport, hydration, mechanical properties and thermal stability of nanocomposite membranes made of perfluorinated sulfonated polymers and zirconium phosphate and phosphonates for application as polymer electrolytes in fuel cells.
Development of organic-inorganic hybrids made of zirconium phosphates and hydrotalcites intercalated with dyes and species with biological activity.
The laboratory is equipped with techniques for materials characterization including X-ray diffraction, thermal analysis (TGA, DTA, DSC), surface area determination, conductivity measurements by the impedance technique and stress-strain mechanical tests under controlled environment conditions.

Spin-off activity

Since 2008 the research group has been hosting a University spin-off, named Prolabin&Tefarm, led by prof. Umberto Costantino. The spin-off activity deals with development , production and commercialization of nanostructured inorganic-organic lamellar materials usable as polymer additives, heterogeneous catalysts and active ingredients for health care and cosmetics. The investigated materials belong mainly to the class of hydrotalcites, known also as Layered Double Hydroxides or anionic clays, and zirconium phosphates and phosphonates.

Unit: Molecular Catalysts for Olefin Polymerization and Water Oxidation

The activity of our research group mainly focuses on synthesizing, investigating and testing in catalysis of two classes of compounds: i) metallocene and post-metallocene complexes for olefin polymerization and ii) robust coordination complexes for water oxidation to molecular oxygen. As far as point i) is concerned, our main aim is to rationalize the effects of ion pairing and, in general, of co-catalyst/catalysts interactions on the performances of catalysts. Investigation of the intermolecular structure of aggregates in solution is carried out taking advantages of the NMR methodologies developed during the last years. Coming to point ii), water oxidation is an essential process for constructing an artificial photosynthetic apparatus aimed at the splitting of H2O into H2 and O2, whose realization would contribute to solve the energetic problem in a green and sustainable way [5]. We recently entered in such a fascinating research area by synthesizing new iridium(III) catalysts that showed remarkable catalytic activity.