Organic functional materials are finding increasing applications in cutting-edge technologies such as energy production, storage and conversion, medicine and biotechnology. Important examples are represented by either π-conjugated molecules and polymers, or photoactive and electroactive molecules confined in environments with local order and mesoscopic organization (ionic liquids and reverse micelles). Some of these systems are being actively investigated as a cheap replacement of traditional inorganic semiconductors in applications involving large areas (e.g., sensors, active displays and photovoltaic cells). A thorough understanding of the structure and morphology of these materials is extremely important to optimize the efficiency and increase the life-span of such devices. In a totally different context, natural proteins are involved in an extremely wide range of functions in living cells (catalysis, transport, regulation, structural support, etc.). Thus they can also be considered as prototypical examples of organic functional materials. Understanding their interaction with natural and artificial biomaterials and correlating their structure with their biological response is important for implants and cell cultures, to quote two important examples. A range of experimental and theoretical methods is applied to investigate and engineer the structure of these materials at different length scales, from the molecular up to the macroscopic level. These techniques include different sorts of X-ray scattering, spectroscopies, electron microscopies, molecular simulation and statistical mechanics. Information from these techniques is integrated to provide a unified and coherent picture of molecular recognition and self-assembly processes.
Permanent group members (with links to personal pages):
Giuseppe Allegra (retired)
Stefano Valdo Meille