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Research Activities

Bio-Inspired Energy

The main goal of the Bio-Inspired Energy Research Line is to develop a new class of hybrid (biological-inorganic) Fuel Cell generators able to directly and efficiently harvest chemical energy of organic substrates (fuels) from the environment. This class of devices will be designed exploiting different catalysis routes: new inorganic catalysts, optimized biocatalysts and/or proper combinations of both bio and inorganic catalysts.

Four main application domains are under investigation:

  • new portable energy sources
  • environmental monitoring
  • water and soil remediation
  • water treatment and desalination

Laboratories

BioEn Lab – The Bio Energy Laboratory is organized in three main parts:

  • Facilities for Nano Materials Synthesis: Paar Reactor, Microwave Reactor, CO2 Supercritical Dryer, Freeze Dryer, Electrospinner
  • Electrochemical Characterization: RRDE, Arbin BT-2000 test station, Potentiostat and galvanostat, test bench for bio fuel cell characterization
  • Biology: incubators for bacteria growth, biological and chemical woods

Electron Microscopy Lab

 
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Nanostructured thin films for new photovoltaic “all Si” solar cells

Silicon nanocrystals embedded in a dielectric matrix behave as quantum dots (QD) when they have very small dimensions (< 10 nm in diameter): they can be used to engineer structures whose band gaps are finely tunable by adjusting the nanocrystals size. Such structures have been proposed to be employed in “all-Si” tandem cells, composed by several solar cells of different band gaps stacked on top of one another, with the highest band gap cell uppermost: each cell absorbs a slice of the solar spectrum, with below band gap photons passing through to underlying cells.

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Nanodesigned electrochemical reactors for H2 production

The main goal of this project is the development of an artificial device capable of splitting water to produce hydrogen at ambient temperature.

As shown in the figure, the device will consist of three main parts:

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Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells with innovative nanostructured photoanode design

Aim of the work is to design modified Dye Sensitized Solar Cells (DSCs) with increased solar energy-to-current conversion efficiency, by exploring innovative modification of the original DSC structure devised by M. Graetzel at the beginning of the ‘90s.

The strategy followed to obtain this goal is to propose modifications regarding both the oxide substrate and the sensitizing layer of the cell aiming at increasing electron collection and transport while decreasing the recombination processes. The polycrystalline TiO2 layer will be substituted with (i) an ordered array of ZnO nanowires, (ii) a nano-network composed of ZnO nanowires covered with polycrystalline TiO2 (core-shell nanowires) or (iii) a nano-network composed by polycrystalline TiO2 and carbon nanotubes (CNTs).

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Flexible Nanostructured Lithium-polymer thin cells and flexible nanostructured supercapacitors

The main goals of this Work package can be summarized as follows:

  • Electrode materials preparation for both batteries and supercapacitors;
  • Polymer electrolyte membranes preparation for both batteries and supercapacitors;
  • Cathode Electrolyte Assembly (CEA) and Anode Electrolyte Assembly (AEA) testing and integration in a complete Li-ion thin cell battery;
  • Preparation of an inkjet printed flexible polymeric cell;
  • Electrochemical double layer supercapacitors preparation with both standard technology and inkjet printing.

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