Nanostructured materials for energy conversion and storage

Discover and understand mechanisms for energy conversion and storage, mainly exploiting the unique functionalities and opportunities opened up by nanoscience and knowledge-based materials design

The conversion and storage of energy are crucial to achieve an efficient management of renewable energy resources. Progress in this field will benefit our society, by abating the current dependence on fossil fuels, reducing CO2 emissions, and promoting hydrogen as the ultimate energy carrier. A significant step forward requires real breakthroughs in materials physics, where nanoscience and knowledge-based materials design have opened up new exciting avenues.

A prominent research topic in our group is solid-state hydrogen storage with particular emphasis on the interaction of hydrogen with nanostructured materials. We carry out both experimental studies and modelling of hydrogen-related kinetics and thermodynamics. In combination with our expertise on nanoparticles growth, this approach has led us to develop magnesium-based nanomaterials with outstanding hydrogen sorption kinetics and storage properties at low temperature. We also study the potentiality of carbon-based nanostructures, mainly graphene and intercalated fullerene, as hydrogen storage materials and ionic conductors.

Another important research line focuses on nanostructured semiconductor oxides for photoelectrochemical water splitting and photocatalytic environmental remediation. We investigate new materials, mainly used as photoanodes, in order to unravel the mechanisms that improve harvesting of the solar spectrum and the efficiency of its conversion into electrical or chemical energy. Examples include metal ion-doped TiO2 nanoparticles and thin films, TiO2-Fe2O3 nanocomposites, and BiVO4 thin films.

Central to our activity is the laboratory for the growth of nanoparticles, nanocomposites and thin films by physical method, equipped with two ultra-high vacuum systems, one for gas phase condensation of nanoparticles and one for thin film deposition by radio-frequency magnetron sputtering. Structural and morphological analyses of nanomaterials prepared in the laboratory are carried out by x-ray diffraction and electron microscopy on the local scale, with frequent access to large scale research infrastructures for the use of synchrotron radiation, muon-based spectroscopies, high resolution electron microscopy and microanalysis.

The characterization of physical properties is carried out both in our laboratories, as regards for instance hydrogen sorption thermodynamics and kinetics, electrical and optical properties, and in partnership with other research groups. Indeed, since modern materials science requires the integration of multiple competences, our research activity benefits from scientific collaborations with national and international universities and research institutions as listed below.



Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (DE), Ecole Polytchnique Fédérale de Lausanne (CH), Institut de Chimie et des Materiaux Paris-Est (FR), Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (NL), Eotvos University, Budapest (HR), Delft University of Technology (NL), Vinča Institute of Nuclear Sciences, Belgrade (SR), Technion – Israel Institute of technology, Haifa (IL), Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, ENEA, University of Trento, University of Ferrara, University of Torino


Luca Pasquini

Associate Professor

DIFA Members

Federico Boscherini

Full Professor