2010-to date Researcher at the Istituto Struttura della Materia belonging to the Italian National Council of Research (ISM-CNR), Rome (Italy).
2002-2009 Researcher at the Istituto per i Processi Chimico-Fisici belonging to the Italian National Council of Research (IPCF-CNR), Messina (Italy).
2000-2002 Instrument scientist at the Neutron Spin Echo spectrometer V5 (SPAN) at BENSC, Hahn-Meitner Institut (now Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin) (Berlin, Germany).
1998-2000 EU-TMR Research Assistant, Chemistry Department, Heriot-Watt University (Edinburgh, UK).
1998 Dottorato di Ricerca (Ph.D.) in Physical Chemistry at the University of Palermo (Italy) on “Structural characterization of phase. separating systems”
1994 Laurea in Chemistry, University of Palermo (110/110 cum laude); thesis on “Effect of temperature on water structure: a Molecular Dynamics study”.
1988 Secondary school Diploma (60/60).
2009 Visiting scientist (three months) at the Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin (Prof. C. Pappas).
2008 Visiting scientist (one week) at the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Queen’s University Belfast (UK) (Prof. C. Hardacre).
2007 Visiting scientist (two weeks) at the Neutron Science Laboratory, Institute for Solid State Physics, University of Tokyo (Prof. Osamu Yamamuro).
2006 Visiting scientist (four months) at the Hahn-Meitner Institut (Prof. Ferenc Mezei).
2005 Visiting scientist (two months) at the Department of Condensed Matter Physics, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (Prof. Miguel Angel Ramos)
2004 Visiting scientist (two weeks) at the Julich Center for Neutron Scattering (Dr. Hans Grimm).
2002 Visiting scientist (three months) at the Hahn-Meitner Institut (Prof. Ferenc Mezei).
1997 Visiting scientist (three months) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (USA) (Dr. G. D. Wignall).
1994 Visiting scholar (three months) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (USA) (Dr. G. D. Wignall).
– Responsible of the FIRB “Futuro in Ricerca” project “Structure and Dynamics in Room temperature ionic liquids and their binary mixtures” (2010-2013) (Budget: 350,000 €)
– Evaluation Expert for proposals submitted in the framework of the Israel Science Foundation‘s FIRST Program (2010).
– Teaching assignment at the Vilnius University in the framework of the Erasmus Mobility Programme (2010).
– Coordinator of the CNR Research Modulus “Non-conventional solvents for eco-sustainable processing innovation” (2009).
– Evaluation Expert for proposals submitted in the framework of the 7th FP, in Brussels (2008).
– Awarded with an Italo-French University mobility scholarship to develop a common research program with Prof. A. Padua (Clermont-Ferrand) on “Study of structural and dynamic properties of room temperature ionic liquids” (2009)
– Reviewer for scientific journals: Chemistry of Materials, Journal of Chemical Physics, Journal of Physical Chemistry B, Macromolecules, Langmuir, Journal of Raman Spectroscopy etc.
2000-2008 Member of the Italian Society of Neutron Scattering (SISN) and member of the SISN scientific committee (2004-2006)
2010 Member of the Italian Chemical Society
Current Scientific Interests
Room Temperature Ionic Liquids (RTILs)
Room temperature ionic liquids (RTIL) are presently attracting a great attention as potential replacement of many noxious compounds for a wide range of activities, including (bio-)catalysis, electro chemistry, separation et cetera. Their success relies on the easy modulation of their performances upon slight changes in their chemical architecture, and that led to the introduction of the term “designer solvents” to characterize this fundamental feature of RTILs.
The research programme of our group focuses on the three main topic:
• Study of the morphology of the neat RTILs and their binary mixures (with water, alcohol etc.) by means of complementary X-Ray and Neutron Wide and Small Angle Scattering. The experimental data are collected on EDXD home Facilities, at Synchrotrons (ESRF, Elettra), and at Neutron Scattering Facilities (ILL, BENSC, ISIS).
• Study of the microsopic dynamics of neat RTILs by using light , neutron and X-ray scattering, dielectric and Raman spectroscopy. The complementarity of the techniques allows the access to a wide dynamic and spatial window to probe relaxation phenomenon. The dynamical properties are investigated under variation of several parameters (alkyl chain length, anion type, additive concentration, etc.)
• Computational rationalization of the (structural and dynamic) experimental data by means of suitable molecular dynamics simulations, after force field parametrization with the data themselves and the results of high-level ab initio calculations.
RTILs are novel solvents that are used in the framework of green chemistry and are finding many smart applications in synthesis, catalysis, chemical engineering etc.
Using high resolution QENS (t.o.f. and backscattering) and NSE techniques we are developing a research program on the complex relaxation behaviour of these materials, thus achieving a world leadership in this field.
Using diffraction techniques (both neutron and X-ray diffraction) we recently provided the first experimental evidences of the existence of nanoscale structural organization in neat RTILs. This observation represents a breakthrough in the rationalisation of the intriguing chemical-physical properties of this important class of green chemicals. The activity at Large Scale Facilities is of excellence, as indicated by the recent highlights: (ELETTRA Synchrotron Highlight: elettra_highlights_2001-2002-pg054.pdf ed NMI3 Highlight: http://neutron.neutron-eu.net/n_nmi3/n_access_activities/1580). These results have been the topic for invited plenary talk at the Meeting on Relaxation in Complex Systems (Rome (ITA), September 2009) and at the Conference on Ionic Liquids (Yokohama (JP), august 2007). The NSE/backscattering data obtained at different world facilities (HZB, NIST and ILL) will be presented at an invited talk at ACS Meeting in San Francisco in March 2010 (physchemil2010.html).
In the framework of FIRB-Futuro in Ricerca grant that I am going to coordinate in the period 2010-2013, several issues related to this theme will be addressed. The project involves tight interaction with two research groups at the Dept. of Chemistry of the Sapienza University in Rome and the Dept. of Chemistry at the Cagliari University.
The research focus will be on a rationalisation of structural (by X-ray and neutron scattering) and dynamic (by neutron, dielectric and Raman spectroscopies) properties of RTILs on the basis of Molecular Dynamics simulations. RTILs will be studied in a number of conditions, including neat state, binary mixtures (e.g. with water, other small molecular compounds, macromolecules etc. ), nano-confinement and mixtures with gases such as CO2 and CH4.
Aggregation processes in supercritical CO2.
Supercritical (sc-) CO2 is attracting huge interest as a green solvent for many chemical processes, such as synthesis, separation, catalysis etc.
I am very active in characterising structural features of sc-CO2 solutions of block-copolymers, using neutron and X-ray diffraction. Using these techniques I provided the first description of the concept of Critical Micellization Density (cmd), rationalising the occurrence of aggregation processes when the solvent density crosses a critical value. The morphological properties of these systems were also investigated in terms of aggregates interacting through an hard sphere potential, providing an excellent description of combined neutron and X-ray diffraction data. Taking advantage of the high brilliance of synchrotron sources and using a home-developed high pressure cell I also characterised the kinetics of micelles formation and disruption in sc-CO2.
Polymer Structure and Dynamics
I am active in characterizing morphology and relaxation processes in amorphous polymers across their glass transition. Much of the activity focused on atactic polypropylene (aPP). The morphology of aPP has been studied using neutron diffraction on a fully deuterated sample. The development of intermediate range order correlation, which has a dynamic origin, has been observed [Highlight of the HZB Annual Report (2005)]. aPP was also investigated by means of neutron spectroscopy techniques (QENS and NSE), covering the dynamics from fraction of psec to tens of nsec. Using this approach the sub-Tg dynamics in aPP was accessed, successfully comparing with Molecular Dynamics simulations.
In order to access the collective dynamics in aPP, a deuterated sample was characterised with NSE over an unprecedently large dynamic window of five decades in time, providing high quality data which allow strict testing of theories (e.g. Mode Coupling Theory) on glass transition features. This is the only existing data set where data over such a wide dynamic range are collected at the same spectrometer without any arbitrary data treatment. Such a result was achieved through the optimization of the NSE setup at SPAN (HMI), in which I was directly involved.