Nanomaterial synthesis and design options

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The present activity is addressed to the synthesis, characterization and application of nano dispersed colloidal systems. Three main topics are addressed:

  • synthesis and functionalization of nano sols and/or nanopowders;
  • nanosols formulation (pH, amount of inorganic phase and additives);
  • processes of solid surfaces functionalization through the deposition of ceramic nano sols.

For what regards nanomaterials synthesis the following processes have been developed: synthesis of metals and/or metal oxides by sol-gel with traditional or microwave heating. Thanks to the design/optimization of the synthesis procedures, complex nanostructures, core-shell type, can be realized. Core-shell structures provide synergic properties between the used materials: metal-oxide, oxide-oxide and metal-metal. For what regards the control and design of solid surface interphase systems, the experience gained in the field of colloidal science (assessment of properties such as zeta potential, dynamic diameter of nano sols, colloidal stability, surface tension) has been fruitfully transferred to the control of nano particles confinement and surface chemistry. The large versatility of synthesized nanomaterials (oxides and metals) allowed to study their application in different fields: catalytic processes, nanofluids for heat exchange, antibacterial/self-cleaning surfaces. More recently the interest has been addressed to the functionalization of solid surfaces (fabrics, ceramics, polymeric) through the deposition of transparent nanostructured film of ceramic materials.

A special attention is addressed since 2008 to problems related to nano-safety, either for what regards the development of nanomaterials design options techniques addressed to decrease nanomaterials impact towards biological receptors and environment, or for what regards the development of worker exposure assessment techniques.



A. L. Costa, M. Serantoni, M. Blosi, E. Mercadelli, L. Esposito, A. Piancastelli, A. Sanson, “Microwave Assisted Synthesis of Yb:Y2O3 Based Materials for Laser Source Application”, Advanced Engineering Materials, 2010, 12, 205-209

M. Blosi, S. Albonetti, M. Dondi, G. Baldi, A. Barzanti: “Process for preparing stable suspensions of metal nanoparticles and the stable colloidal suspensions obtained thereby” PCT/EP2010/052534 WO 2010/100107 A2, 2010

M. Blosi, S. Albonetti, M. Dondi, A L. Costa, M. Ardit , G. Cruciani, “Sol-Gel combustion synthesis of chromium doped yttrium aluminium perovskites” Journal of Sol-Gel Science and Technology, 2009, 50, 449-455.

A. L. Costa, F. Matteucci , M. Dondi, I. Zama, S. Albonetti, G. Baldi, “Heterocoagulation-spray drying process for the inclusion of ceramic pigments”, J. Eur. Ceram. Soc, 2008, 28, 169-176

E. Mercadelli, C. Galassi, A. L. Costa, S. Albonetti, A. Sanson, “Sol-gel combustion synthesis of BNBT powders”, J. Sol-Gel Sci. Technol., 2008, 46, 39-45


In ISTEC several techniques such as sol-gel, precipitation or co-precipitation in aqueous medium, in some cases assisted by microwave heating, are applied to the production of metal oxides or metal nano powders. In some cases the crystallinity of powders is increased with post synthesis thermal treatment (calcination). A large experience has been gained in the synthesis of noble metals sols by using eco-friendly processes that are easily transferable on large scale plants. Together with traditional chemical routes, instantaneous solvent removal techniques have been developed such as spray-drying from precursor solution or sol-gel combustion. These techniques promote the formation of aggregates with large specific surface area and high porosity in the meso and macropore ranges. Another method for solid separation, not instantaneous, but less invasive, is the filtration. ISTEC can use several device allowing the solid filtration for different size range. Particularly, the ultrafiltration suitable for nanometric sols, not only provide a solid-liquid separation, but allows sol concentration, removal of synthesis byproducts and solvent exchange. The surface chemistry of modified nano particles is checked by measuring zeta potential with an electroacoustic technique (Acoustosizer). The aggregation phenomena are also checked by evaluating particle size and morphology with different techniques: dynamic light scattering (DLS) and electronic microscopy (SEM and TEM).

The wettability change, caused by the functionalization of surfaces with nanoparticles, is determined with an optical device provided with a CCD video camera (OCA 15 +) allowing the measure of contact angle, surface energy of surfaces and surface tension of sols..


  • Faculty of Industrial Chemistry, University of Bologna
  • Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, University of Parma
  • INAIL (Italian Workers' Compensation Authority)
  • IOM (Institute of Occupational Medicine, UK)
  • Materials & Surface Science Institute, University of Limerick, IRL
  • Cericol (Colorobbia s.p.a.) of Empoli (Italy)