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2D metal-organic coordination structures


We are interested in creating 2D equivalents of 3D metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) by reacting functional molecular units and selected metal ions directly at surfaces. The resulting supramolecular structures are stabilised by relatively strong but non-covalent interactions, which produce well-defined geometries and long-range periodicities. Such systems might be interesting not only as ordered 2D patterns with possible applications in host–guest reactions and nano-reactors but also for the catalytic and magnetic properties of low-coordinated metallic centres.


Interaction of small biomolecules with surfaces


Amino acids, short peptides, lipids and nucleic acids represent the elementary building blocks of living matter and their interaction with surfaces lies at the basis of several biological phenomena and technologies such as cell growth, biocompatibility, biorecognition, tissue engineering, etc. Moreover, these molecular units are also used as functional modifiers of inorganic surfaces, e.g. in enantioselective heterogeneous catalysis or in biomineralisation. We are particularly interested in studying how these molecules retain and transfer their chiral properties, in the mechanisms behind their ability to selectively recognise each other and in the influence of surface absorption on their secondary structure.


Electronic vs structural properties at metal-organic interfaces

long range

The electronic structure of organic molecules deposited on metal substrates is determined by processes occurring at the nanometre scale and involving electrostatic interactions. These phenomena have recently received much attention since they are crucial for the contact properties of many devices currently being investigated in organic electronics and photovoltaics. We are studying charge transfer processes at metal-organic interfaces and their connection with supramolecular self-assembly.


Self-assembly at the solid-liquid interface


Most of the work in supramolecular surface chemistry has been performed in ultra high vacuum due to exquisite control over the cleanliness, the chemistry and structure of the surface and the preparation conditions. However, the technology associated with this approach is typically cumbersome and expensive. On the other hand, the fabrication of molecular nanostructures from solution under ambient conditions is much simpler and cheaper, representing a significant advantage in view of future applications. We are specifically interested in nanostructures stabilised by hydrogen bonding and metal-organic interactions as well as in studying elementary molecular recognition processes


Self-assembly of short peptides


Spontaneously assembled nanostructures that use biomolecules as elementary units are particularly interesting due to the ease of their fabrication, to the availability of simple chemical modification routes and for their intrinsic biocompatibility. Peptides, in particular, are highly versatile building blocks and their (mis-)assembly underpins the functional specificity of proteins or the emergence of neurodegenerative diseases. We concentrate on studying the assembly of very short peptidic sequences which act as model systems and offer the possibility to examine the fundamental processes governing their mutual interactions.