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Chemistry of inorganic and hybrid materials

Barbara Di Credico, Massimiliano D'Arienzo, Franca Morazzoni, Roberto Scotti

The research activity concerns with the synthesis, the spectromagnetic characterization and the functional study of metal oxides with controlled structure and morphology, of hybrid organic-inorganic materials and their interface.

At the present time the research topics are:

Nanostructured oxides and organic-inorganic hybrid materials for photocatalytic applications

TiO2 nanocrystals with tailored structure, size and morphology, synthesized by different preparation routes (e.g. hydrothermal and surfactant assisted sol-gel methods), are employed as photocatalysts for the oxidation of organic and inorganic pollutants in water and air. In particular, the work is focused on the growth of shape controlled nanocrystals tuned through surface functionalization with organic molecules and on the study of the photocatalytic reaction mechanism (radical generation in the photodecomposition process; formation and interfacial reactivity of photogenerated charge trapping centers) by spectroscopic and spectromagnetic techniques. The photocatalytic activity is relatable to the stability of the charge carrier traps and to the exposed crystal faces of the nanocrystals.

TiO2 nanocrystals with controlled polymorphism, defined morphology and specific exposed surfaces able to provide sites for the photoreduction reactions, are also the building blocks for the preparation of hybrid materials for the CO2 capture and photoconversion in renewable fuels (e.g. CH3OH, CH4). These hybrid photocatalysts both display the intrinsic photoreductive properties of TiO2 and the aptitude of specific organic sensitizer (e.g amino salicylic units bearing arylazosubstituents) to favour the CO2 uptake on the oxide surface and provide solar light absorption.

Nanostructured semiconductor oxides for gas-sensor devices

Nanostructured semiconductor metal oxides (SnO2, ZnO, WO3), either pure or doped with transition metals, are employed as materials for gas (CO, O2, NOx, NH3) sensor devices. In particular, the research focuses on the preparation by soft chemistry techniques of oxide films with tailored porosity and constituted by nanocrystals with controlled particle size and shape in order to improve the sensing performances.

Suitable spectroscopic and magnetic techniques are used to recognize centers and defects responsible for the electrical response and to relate the specific exposed surfaces of the oxide nanocrystals to their surface reactivity towards the target gases.

Shape controlled inorganic fillers for automotive rubber nanocomposites

Silica fillers have a great effect on the mechanical reinforcement of rubber composites. The research focused on the synthesis of silica particles with tailored isotropic/anisotropic shapes,  surface-functionalized with groups able to physically or chemically interact with the polymer. Different aqueous/non aqueous sol-gel methods, also in the presence of surfactant as particle growth directing agent, are performed to in situ prepare the silica particles used as filler in silica/rubber nanocomposites. The goal is to relate the surface and morphological characteristics of the nanoparticles with the dispersion of the filler, the particle networking, the filler-filler and filler-rubber interaction, responsible for the improvement of the reinforcing and the mechanical properties of the rubber materials.


  • Conventional chemistry laboratories, equipped for synthesis of the precursor compounds, thermal treatments under controlled atmosphere, preparation of samples for spectroscopic measurements, high pressure treatments and reactions.
  • Total Organic Carbon Analyzer Shimadzu TOC-V CSH for liquid and gas samples.
  • Chemiluminescence NOx Analyzer Sartec E200.
  • Surface Area and Pore Size Analyzer, Autosorb-1-MP Quantachrome Instrument, for micropore measurement.

Spectroscopic laboratories:

  • X and Q band Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) spectrometer Brucker EMX, equipped with a 4 -500 K temperature control, a gas/vacuum ramp for in-situ treatment of the samples and a system for UV and Vis cavity irradiation.
  • Conventional electronic, vibrational (IR, Raman micro-Raman) absorption.