Nanoparticles Self-Assembly Research Group
The research activity of the Nanoparticles Self-Assembly group, led by Prof. Marco Lattuada, is devoted to the rational design and the synthesis of nanoparticles and to the investigation of their self-assembly behavior by a balanced combination of experiments and simulations, with the objective of creating new materials with tailored properties. The objective is therefore to engineer polymer-based or composite nanoparticles that can mimic the behavior of simple molecules or proteins. To achieve this goal, the group aims to create nanoparticles with anisotropic properties and functionalities, starting from the simplest example of two-faced (Janus) nanoparticles and proceeding towards more complex patchy particles with a well-defined structure. The researchers also make use of external fields, such as magnetic fields, which generate dipolar interactions that can drive on-demand the self-assembly of nanoparticles towards different pathways. A crucial aspect of this work is to develop simple synthetic techniques that permit the preparation of sufficiently large amounts of complex nanoparticles, in order to investigate their unique behavior under concentrated conditions and make them appealing for applications. The researchers closely combine their experimental work with a modeling activity based on Monte-Carlo and Brownian Dynamics simulations to develop a quantitative understanding of the self-assembly of the nanoparticles and to have a tool that allows one to predict the behavior of the nanoparticles, to rationalize the relationship between their structure and behavior, and eventually to better engineer them.