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Our Research focuses on Nanomaterials

based on Metal (M) and Metallic Ceramics (MCs)

Metallic ceramics, as suggested by their name, possess an intriguing combination of properties that place them at the borderline (properties-wise) between classical ceramics and pure metals, possessing good mechanical properties, chemical resistance and higher melting points (like ceramics), alongside electrical conductivity, catalytic activity, magnetic properties (like metals).

•Interstitial Compounds

•Bonding has both ionic and covalent character

•Hetero-desmic nature of the bonding

•Stoichiometry is an exception

Peculiarity of MCs is the result of an unusual crystal and electronic structure, not yet completely clarified. This structural uncertainty, together with some intrinsic difficulties related to their synthesis, makes metallic ceramics fascinating but still largely unexplored.

Here an example of two typical MCs structures: Trigonal (red) and octahedral (orange) interstitial sites in a hexagonal (left) and fcc (right) structure. Blue points=metal positions REF: L. E. Toth, Transition metal carbides and nitrides. New York: Academic Press, 1971

Image by Sherise Van Dyk

The word “nano” derives from the Greek word meaning dwarf. 1 nm = 10-6 mTo give an example on how small a nanometre is, think that fullerene, a typical nanostructure, compares to a soccer ball, as a soccer ball compares to hearth.

Synthesis of novel nanomaterials for applications in key energy related catalytic and electro-catalytic processes

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The number of envisaged applications is thus very broad and even broader going to the nanoscale (e.g. higher specific surface area, tailored properties via size- and shape- control, easier shaping and processing, etc). As “bulk” phase, metallic ceramics are mainly known for their superior mechanical properties but, due to their “dual” nature, the potentialities of these materials go far beyond.

Novel and routes have been setting up for the production of a wide variety of tailored MN/MC nanostructures

The research performed up to now represents just the tip of an iceberg. Once the production of these materials can be made straightforward, any further modification, combination, manipulation, is in principle possible and unique systems can be designed.

Current research also focuses on multifunctional materials, colloidal dispersions and hybrids based on MN/MC nanoparticles. In particular on the design of tailored multifunctional materials (hybrids and nanocomposites) based on metallic ceramics, where solid state bridges soft matter to create unique materials for target applications.

Large part of our research is also performed through national and international collaborations.

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