Publications of excellent quality (Q1) of the SIMAU Department researchers, year 2023 – FIRST SEMESTER

Mandolini Marco, Brunzini Agnese, Caragiuli Manila, Mazzoli Alida, Pagnoni Mario, “An innovative orbital implant positioner for the proper restoration of eye-socket defects”, Bio-Design and Manufacturing Volume 6, Issue 1, Pages 82 – 89 January 2023.
Abstract: The orbital walls and floor are common sites of facial bone fracture and may cause severe functional impairment. The complex geometry of the bony orbit makes anatomical reconstruction extremely challenging, with main issues related to the implant’s correct shaping, positioning, and orientation inside the orbital cavity. This study proposes an innovative medical device to place patient-specific implants in fractured eye sockets properly. The device must be used with the developed improved version of a tailored implant shaping mould. The methodology defined for conceiving, designing, prototyping, and validating the orbital implant positioner is described. The design followed specific clinical and technical requirements and specifications investigated through the Quality Function Deployment method. The device has been conceived to be simple, economical, capable of managing deantigenated bones or titanium meshes for orbital floor and wall, and reusable multiple times. The positioner consists of two parts hinged together and coupled adequately by a spring to allow surgeons to grasp and place the implant. Positioner and mould were manufactured in polyamide using the Selective Laser Sintering technique. The system accuracy assessment resulted in promising outcomes. The mould can precisely shape the implant as designed, with a lower than 0.1mm deviation. The implant positioner can place the implant with a 1.2mm deviation in the mediolateral direction (no deviations in the anteroposterior and superior-inferior directions) and a rotation angle around the orbital rim of barely.
Elisabetta Damiani, Fiorenza Sella, Paola Astolfi, Roberta Galeazzi, Oliana Carnevali, Francesca Maradonna “First In Vivo Insights on the Effects of Tempol-Methoxycinnamate, a New UV Filter, as Alternative to Octyl Methoxycinnamate, on Zebrafish Early Development”, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 24(7), 2023, 6767
Abstract: The demand for organic UV filters as active components in sunscreen products has rapidly risen over the last century, as people have gradually realized the hazards of overexposure to UV radiation. Their extensive usage has resulted in their ubiquitous presence in different aquatic matrices, representing a potential threat to living organisms. In this context, the need to replace classic UV filters such as octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC), one of the most popular UV filters reported to be a potential pollutant of aquatic ecosystems, with more environmentally friendly ones has emerged. In this study, using zebrafish, the first in vivo results regarding the effect of exposure to tempol-methoxycinnamate (TMC), a derivative of OMC, are reported. A comparative study between TMC and OMC was performed, analyzing embryos exposed to similar TMC and OMC concentrations, focusing on morphological and molecular changes. While both compounds seemed not to affect hatching and embryogenesis, OMC exposure caused an increase in endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress response genes, according to increased eif2ak3, ddit3, nrf2, and nkap mRNA levels and in oxidative stress genes, as observed from modulation of the sod1, sod2, gpr, and trx mRNA levels. On the contrary, exposure to TMC led to reduced toxicity, probably due to the presence of the nitroxide group in the compound’s molecular structure responsible for antioxidant activity. In addition, both UV filters were docked with estrogen and androgen receptors where they acted differently, in agreement with the molecular analysis that showed a hormone-like activity for OMC but not for TMC. Overall, the results indicate the suitability of TMC as an alternative, environmentally safer UV filter.
Riccardo Castagna, Simona Sabbatini, Andsrea Di Donato, Oriano Francescangeli, Paolo Castellini, Daniele Eugenio Lucchetta “Development of a Quartz-Based Photo-Mobile Polymer Film for Controlled Motion Triggered by Light or Heat”, Materials (Basel), Volume 16, Aprile 2023(8): 3046.
Abstract: We have developed a photo-mobile polymer film, that combines organic and inorganic materials, to allow for controlled motion that can be triggered by light or heat. Our film is made using recycled quartz and consists of two layers: a multi-acrylate polymer layer and a layer containing oxidized 4-amino-phenol and N-Vinyl-1-Pyrrolidinone. The use of quartz in our film also gives it a high temperature resistance of at least 350 °C. When exposed to heat, the film moves in a direction that is independent of the heat source, due to its asymmetrical design. Once the heat source is removed, the film returns to its original position. ATR-FTIR measurements confirm this asymmetrical configuration. This technology may have potential applications in energy harvesting, due to the piezoelectric properties of quartz.
Cristina Minnelli, Pierluigi Stipa, Simona Sabbatini, Paolo Mengucci, Giovanna Mobbili, Roberta Galeazzi, Tatiana Armeni, Brenda Romaldi, Annamaria Celli, Emiliano Laudadio “Insights into PLGA-encapsulated epigallocatechin 3-gallate nanoparticles as a new potential biomedical system: A computational and experimental approach”, European polymer Journal, Volume 182, 2023, 111723.
Abstract: Biodegradable poly-lactic poly-glycolic copolymer (PLGA) represents one of the best strategies adopted to convey small molecules unstable and characterised by a low bioavailability if administered without vehicles. This is the case of Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which is one of the most interesting polyphenols from a biomedical point of view. In this study, the impact of EGCG on PLGA nanoparticles (NPs) properties has been studied underlining the role of the binary PVA/Poloxamer-407 as stabilizer system for obtaining colloidal stable NPs. Characterization has been carried out by dynamic light scattering (DLS), encapsulation efficiency, drug release studies, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and infrared spectroscopy (IR). Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations have been used to model the PLGA and EGCG systems to understand the behaviour of NPs and the interactions that guided the EGCG encapsulation. The nanodispersions exhibited promising cytotoxic potentials in human lung carcinoma A549 cell lines enhancing the well-known growth inhibitor effect of the free EGCG.
Cristina Minnelli, Pierluigi Stipa, Simona Sabbatini, Paolo Mengucci, Giovanna Mobbili, Roberta Galeazzi, Tatiana Armeni, Brenda Romaldi, Annamaria Celli, Emiliano Laudadio, “Insights into PLGA-encapsulated epigallocatechin 3-gallate nanoparticles as a new potential biomedical system: A computational and experimental approach”, European Polymer Journal, Volume 182, January 2023, e111723.
Abstract: Biodegradable poly-lactic poly-glycolic copolymer (PLGA) represents one of the best strategies adopted to convey small molecules unstable and characterized by a low bioavailability if administered without vehicles. This is the case of Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which is one of the most interesting polyphenols from a biomedical point of view. In this study, the impact of EGCG on PLGA nanoparticles (NPs) properties has been studied underlining the role of the binary PVA/Poloxamer-407 as stabilizer system for obtaining colloidal stable NPs. Characterization has been carried out by dynamic light scattering (DLS), encapsulation efficiency, drug release studies, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and infrared spectroscopy (IR). Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations have been used to model the PLGA and EGCG systems to understand the behavior of NPs and the interactions that guided the EGCG encapsulation. The nanodispersions exhibited promising cytotoxic potentials in human lung carcinoma A549 cell lines enhancing the well-known growth inhibitor effect of the free EGCG.
Mattia Cantarini, Dario Rusciano, Rosario Amato, Alessio Canovai, Maurizio Cammalleri, Massimo Dal Monte, Cristina Minnelli, Emiliano Laudadio, Giovanna Mobbili, Giorgia Giorgini, Roberta Galeazzi, “Structural Basis for Agonistic Activity and Selectivity toward Melatonin Receptors hMT1 and hMT2”, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Volume 24, February 2023, e2863.
Abstract: Glaucoma, a major ocular neuropathy originating from a progressive degeneration of retinal ganglion cells, is often associated with increased intraocular pressure (IOP). Daily IOP fluctuations are physiologically influenced by the antioxidant and signaling activities of melatonin. This endogenous modulator has limited employment in treating altered IOP disorders due to its low stability and bioavailability. The search for low-toxic compounds as potential melatonin agonists with higher stability and bioavailability than melatonin itself could start only from knowing the molecular basis of melatonergic activity. Thus, using a computational approach, we studied the melatonin binding toward its natural macromolecular targets, namely melatonin receptors 1 (MT1) and 2 (MT2), both involved in IOP signaling regulation. Besides, agomelatine, a melatonin-derivative agonist and, at the same time, an atypical antidepressant, was also included in the study due to its powerful IOP-lowering effects. For both ligands, we evaluated both stability and ligand positioning inside the orthosteric site of MTs, mapping the main molecular interactions responsible for receptor activation. Affinity values in terms of free binding energy (ΔGbind) were calculated for the selected poses of the chosen compounds after stabilization through a dynamic molecular docking protocol. The results were compared with experimental in vivo effects, showing a higher potency and more durable effect for agomelatine with respect to melatonin, which could be ascribed both to its higher affinity for hMT2 and to its additional activity as an antagonist for the serotonin receptor 5-HT2c, in agreement with the in silico results.
Eleonora Pavoni, Elaheh Mohebbi, Pierluigi Stipa, Luca Pierantoni, Davide Mencarelli, Mircea Dragoman, Martino Aldrigo, Emiliano Laudadio, “First-principles investigation of interface phenomena in hafnium-based metal-insulator-metal diodes”, Nanoscale Advances, Volume 5, March 2023.
Abstract: Metal-insulator-metal (MIM) diodes are very interesting in many different applications exploiting environment-friendly renewable energy solutions. Moreover, since the dimensions of such devices are at the nanoscale, the size and the characteristics of their constitutive elements can drastically influence their macroscale performance. As it could be difficult to describe in detail the physical phenomena occurring among materials in nanoscale systems, in this work first-principles calculations have been used to study the structural and electrical properties of three different hafnium oxide (HfO2)-MIM diodes. These devices have been simulated at the atomistic level by interposing 3 nm of HfO2 between drain and source electrodes made of gold and platinum, respectively. The monoclinic and orthorhombic polymorphs of HfO2 have been considered to model different types of MIM diodes, and the interface geometries have been optimized to compute the current-voltage characteristics, reflecting the tunneling mechanisms occurring in such devices. The calculation of the transmission pathways has also been carried out to investigate the effects of atomistic coordinates despite the use of the same material. The results demonstrate the role of the Miller indices of metals and the influence of the HfO2 polymorphs on the MIM properties. In this study, the importance of interface phenomena on the measurable properties of the proposed devices has been investigated in detail.
Giovanna Mobbili, Brenda Romaldi, Giulia Sabbatini, Adolfo Amici, Massimo Marcaccio, Roberta Galeazzi, Emiliano Laudadio, Tatiana Armeni, Cristina Minnelli, “Identification of Flavone Derivative Displaying a 4′-Aminophenoxy Moiety as Potential Selective Anticancer Agent in NSCLC Tumor Cells”, Molecules, Volume 28, April 2023, e3239.
Abstract: Five heterocyclic derivatives were synthesized by functionalization of a flavone nucleus with an aminophenoxy moiety. Their cytotoxicity was investigated in vitro in two models of human non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells (A549 and NCI-H1975) by using MTT assay and the results compared to those obtained in healthy fibroblasts as a non-malignant cell model. One of the aminophenoxy flavone derivatives (APF-1) was found to be effective at low micromolar concentrations in both lung cancer cell lines with a higher selective index (SI). Flow cytometric analyses showed that APF-1 induced apoptosis and cell cycle arrest in the G2/M phase through the up-regulation of p21 expression. Therefore, the aminophenoxy flavone-based compounds may be promising cancer-selective agents and could serve as a base for further research into the design of flavone-based anticancer drugs.
Eleonora Pavoni, Mircea Gabriel Modreanu, Elaheh Mohebbi, Davide Mencarelli, Pierluigi Stipa, Emiliano Laudadio, Luca Pierantoni, “First-Principles Calculation of MoO2 and MoO3 Electronic and Optical Properties Compared with Experimental Data”, Nanomaterials, Volume 13, April 2023, e1319.
Abstract: MoO3 and MoO2 systems have attracted particular attention for many widespread applications thanks to their electronic and optical peculiarities; from the crystallographic point of view, MoO3 adopts a thermodynamically stable orthorhombic phase (α-MoO3) belonging to the space group Pbmn, while MoO2 assumes a monoclinic arrangement characterized by space group P21/c. In the present paper, we investigated the electronic and optical properties of both MoO3 and MoO2 by using Density Functional Theory calculations, in particular, the Meta Generalized Gradient Approximation (MGGA) SCAN functional together with the PseudoDojo pseudopotential, which were used for the first time to obtain a deeper insight into the nature of different Mo–O bonds in these materials. The calculated density of states, the band gap, and the band structure were confirmed and validated by comparison with already available experimental results, while the optical properties were validated by recording optical spectra. Furthermore, the calculated band-gap energy value for the orthorhombic MoO3 showed the best match to the experimental value reported in the literature. All these findings suggest that the newly proposed theoretical techniques reproduce the experimental evidence of both MoO2 and MoO3 systems with high accuracy.
Mircea Dragoman, Martino Aldrigo, Adrian Dinescu, Dan Vasilache, Sergiu Iordanescu, Daniela Dragoman, Emiliano Laudadio, Eleonora Pavoni, “Harvesting microwave energy using pyroelectricity of nanostructured graphene/zirconium-doped hafnium oxide ferroelectric heterostructures”, Nanotechnology, Volume 34, May 2023, e205202.
Abstract: In this work, we present the design, atomistic/circuit/electromagnetic simulations, and the experimental results for graphene monolayer/zirconium-doped hafnium oxide (HfZrO) ultra-thin ferroelectric-based field effect transistors fabricated at the wafer scale, regarding the pyroelectricity generation directly from microwave signals, at room temperature and below it, namely at 218 K and at 100 K. The transistors work like energy harvesters, i.e. they collect low-power microwave energy and transform it into DC voltages with a maximum amplitude between 20 and 30 mV. The same devices function as microwave detectors in the band 1-10.4 GHz and at very low input power levels not exceeding 80 μW when they are biased by using a drain voltage, with average responsivity values in the range 200-400 mV mW−1
Emiliano Laudadio, Elaheh Mohebbi, Eleonora Pavoni, Cristina Minnelli, Simona Sabbatini, Pierluigi Stipa, “Density functional theory and molecular dynamics studies on electrical, mechanical, and thermal properties of TiO2 nanoparticles interacting with poly lactic-co-glycolic acid”, Colloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects, Volume 667, June 2023, e 131388.
Abstract: Poly-lactic poly-co-glycolic acid (PLGA) copolymer is widely used thanks to its biocompatibility, even if could be difficult to find desirable mechanical properties for the polymer matrix. For this reason, inorganic nanoparticles like titanium dioxide (TiO2) can be used to modulate the mechanical properties of systems maintaining their biological capabilities. In this concern, density functional theory (DFT) and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations have been used to study the absorption phenomena of PLGA on surfaces of I4₁/amd (Anatase), P42/mnm (Rutile), and Pbca (Brookite) polymorphs of TiO2 DFT results showed that Anatase TiO2 is the best choice to absorb PLGA in comparison to the other PLGA-TiO2 surfaces. MD simulations remarked a peculiar stabilization pathway of PLGA-TiO2 with Anatase surface along the MD time and the largest increase in both Young’s and Bulk’s moduli. Finally, the influence of temperature on the mechanical properties of PLGA/A-TiO2 has also been investigated; in particular, MD results revealed that Young’s modulus of nanocomposite and the binding energy decreased by increasing the temperature. The outcomes of the present investigation could be helpful to clarify the potential uses of the PLGA-TiO2 nanocomposites in the biomedical field ranging from bone tissue engineering to drug delivery.
Serena Summa, Giada Remia, Costanzo Di Perna e Francesca Stazi, “Experimental and numerical study on a new thermal masonry block by comparison with traditional walls”, Energy and Buildings, Volume 292, August 2023, 113125.
Abstract: The present work concerns an innovative construction system consisting of brick blocks with micropores and multiple air cavities which confer to the material a very low thermal conductivity combined with a high thermal inertia. The aim of this research is to experimentally compare the performance of these single-layer inertial walls with a traditional super-insulated lightweight wall, characterized by similar and very low steady thermal transmittance. The walls were monitored in the summer season in two adjacent test rooms in a free dynamic regime, i.e. without the use of mechanical cooling systems. The test rooms were built without windows to evaluate only the heat transfer through the opaque surface. The incidence of solar gains, of ventilation and of the dispersing surface area was evaluated by means of numerical analyses using the hourly dynamic method of EN ISO 52016-1. The results demonstrated that the new single-layer blocks with low conductivity and high thermal inertia guarantee excellent performance by substantially limiting the internal air temperature compared to the other solutions. This makes it possible to reduce the summer peak loads and cooling energy consumptions, especially in the case of night ventilation.
Gabriele Minazzato, Elisa Marangoni, Carlo Fortunato, Riccardo Petrelli, Loredana Cappellacci, Fabio Del Bello, Leonardo Sorci, Massimiliano Gasparrini, Francesco Piacente, Santina Bruzzone, Nadia Raffaelli, “A Versatile Continuous Fluorometric Enzymatic Assay for Targeting Nicotinate Phosphoribosyltransferase”, Molecules, Volume 28, January 2023, 961
Abstract: Extracellular NAD represents a key signaling molecule in different physiological and pathological conditions. It exerts such function both directly, through the activation of specific purinergic receptors, or indirectly, serving as substrate of ectoenzymes, such as CD73, nucleotide pyrophosphatase/phosphodiesterase 1, CD38 and its paralog CD157, and ecto ADP ribosyltransferases. By hydrolyzing NAD, these enzymes dictate extracellular NAD availability, thus regulating its direct signaling role. In addition, they can generate from NAD smaller signaling molecules, like the immunomodulator adenosine, or they can use NAD to ADP-ribosylate various extracellular proteins and membrane receptors, with significant impact on the control of immunity, inflammatory response, tumorigenesis, and other diseases. Besides, they release from NAD several pyridine metabolites that can be taken up by the cell for the intracellular regeneration of NAD itself. The extracellular environment also hosts nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase and nicotinic acid phosphoribosyltransferase, which inside the cell catalyze key reactions in NAD salvaging pathways. The extracellular forms of these enzymes behave as cytokines, with pro-inflammatory functions. This review summarizes the current knowledge on the extracellular NAD metabolome and describes the major biochemical properties of the enzymes involved in extracellular NAD metabolism, focusing on the contribution of their catalytic activities to the biological function. By uncovering the controversies and gaps in their characterization, further research directions are suggested, also to better exploit the great potential of these enzymes as therapeutic targets in various human diseases.
Cecilia Baldassarri, Gianfabio Giorgioni, Alessandro Piergentili , Wilma Quaglia, Stefano Fontana, Valerio Mammoli, Gabriele Minazzato, Elisa Marangoni, Massimiliano Gasparrini, Leonardo Sorci, Nadia Raffaelli, Loredana Cappellacci, Riccardo Petrelli, Fabio Del Bello, “Properly Substituted Benzimidazoles as a New Promising Class of Nicotinate Phosphoribosyltransferase (NAPRT) Modulators”, Pharmaceuticals, Volume 16, January 2023, 189
Abstract: The prevention of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) biosynthesis is considered an attractive therapeutic approach against cancer, considering that tumor cells are characterized by an increased need for NAD to fuel their reprogrammed metabolism. On the other hand, the decline of NAD is a hallmark of some pathological conditions, including neurodegeneration and metabolic diseases, and boosting NAD biosynthesis has proven to be of therapeutic relevance. Therefore, targeting the enzymes nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase (NAMPT) and nicotinate phosphoribosyltransferase (NAPRT), which regulate NAD biosynthesis from nicotinamide (NAM) and nicotinic acid (NA), respectively, is considered a promising strategy to modulate intracellular NAD pool. While potent NAMPT inhibitors and activators have been developed, the search for NAPRT modulators is still in its infancy. In this work, we report on the identification of a new class of NAPRT modulators bearing the 1,2-dimethylbenzimidazole scaffold properly substituted in position 5. In particular, compounds 24, 31, and 32 emerged as the first NAPRT activators reported so far, while 18 behaved as a noncompetitive inhibitor toward NA (Ki = 338 µM) and a mixed inhibitor toward phosphoribosyl pyrophosphate (PRPP) (Ki = 134 µM). From in vitro pharmacokinetic studies, compound 18 showed an overall good ADME profile. To rationalize the obtained results, docking studies were performed on the NAPRT structure. Moreover, a preliminary pharmacophore model was built to shed light on the shift from inhibitors to activators.
Piera Bosso, Regina Del Sole, Antonella Milella, Paolo Mengucci, Gianni Barucca, Vincenza Armenise, Giuseppe Valerio Bianco, Francesco Fracassi, Fabio Palumbo Nanostructured iron oxide thin films deposited by RF sputtering as catalysts for the heterogeneous solar photo-Fenton reaction. Vacuum 207, 111646 (11 pages) (2023)
Abstract: Nanostructured iron oxide coatings have been deposited by plasma sputtering by different approaches, with and without thermal annealing, with the aim of preparing supported catalysts for solar photo-Fenton. Depending on the experimental conditions explored (O2 content in the feed, annealing or bilayer approach) the phase composition of iron oxide changes and the surface nanostructure as well. The evaluation of methylene blue degradation in photo-Fenton reaction indicates a good performance of the investigated materials. Degradation percentage between 84 and 97% have been obtained in 180 min with a constant reaction rate as high as 18.0 × 10−3 min−1, with the best result for a bilayer sample obtained without thermal annealing. This preliminary investigation highlights that the photoactivity of the coatings is related not only to the content of α-Fe2O3, but also to the presence of developed nanostructures on the coating surface, making the material more active. The proposed method for producing supported catalyst based on photo-Fenton reaction is straightforward, and the possibility to reuse the catalyst up to ten reaction cycles is demonstrated.
Sawssen Slimani, Alessandro Talone, Maryam Abdolrahimi, Patrizia Imperatori, Gianni Barucca, Dino Fiorani, and Davide Peddis Morpho-Structural and Magnetic Properties of CoFe2O4/SiO2 Nanocomposites: The Effect of the Molecular Coating J. Phys. Chem. C, 127 (18), 8840–8849 (2023)
Abstract: The use of magnetic nanoarchitecture in several applications is often limited by the lack of noninteracting particles, due to the frequent presence of clusters and aggregates of particles. Here, we report an investigation of the interparticle interactions by changing the molecular coating on 5 nm CoFe2O4 nanoparticles embedded in a silica structure. The magnetic investigation at a low temperature allows revealing the key role of organic ligands in tuning the morpho-structural properties of hybrid materials. Cobalt ferrite-coated nanoparticles were prepared by the polyol method using triethylene glycol as a co-reagent (CFOT) and by the exchange ligand process using dihydroxyhydrocinnamic acid (CFOH). Then, magnetic mesoporous silica nanocomposites have been prepared starting from CFOT (CFOTS) and CFOH (CFOHS). For the CFOTS sample, the interparticle distance did not change after coating, whereas the CFOHS sample showed an increase in the interparticle distance by 23%. This value has been obtained by investigating interparticle interactions by remanence techniques, which represent a good approach to determine the approximated values of interparticle distances in complex systems. The measurements showed that the silica coating produces a reduction of 47% in the dipolar interaction strength for the CFOHS sample, whereas no significant change was observed for the CFOTS sample. The differences in magnetic response upon varying the molecular coating of nanoparticles are due to the different interactions of the molecular ligands with silica, resulting in a change of interparticle distances and then magnetic interactions.
Mammoliti E., Pepi A., Fronzi D., Morelli S., Volatili T., Tazioli A., Francioni M., “3D Discrete Fracture Network Modelling from UAV Imagery Coupled with Tracer Tests to Assess Fracture Conductivity in an Unstable Rock Slope: Implications for Rockfall Phenomena”, Remote Sensing, Volume 15(5): 1222, March 2023.
Abstract: The stability of a rock slope is strongly influenced by the pattern of groundwater flow through the fracture system, which may lead to an increase in the water pressure in partly open joints and the consequent decrease in the rock wall strength. The comprehension of the fracture pattern is a challenging but vital aspect in engineering geology since the fractures’ spatial distribution, connectivity, and aperture guide both the water movement and flow quantity within the rock volume. In the literature, the most accepted methods to hydraulically characterise fractured rocks in situ are the single borehole packer test, the high-resolution flow meters for fractures, and the artificial tracer tests performed in boreholes. However, due to the high cost a borehole requires and the general absence of wells along coastal cliffs, these methods may not be appropriate in rockfall-prone areas. In this study, an unsaturated rocky cliff, strongly affected by rockfalls, was investigated by combining kinematic analysis, Discrete Fracture Network (DFN) modelling, and artificial tracer tests. The DFN model and potential rock block failure mechanisms were derived from high-resolution 3D virtual outcrop models via the Structure from Motion (SfM) photogrammetry technique. An artificial tracer was injected using a double ring infiltrometer atop the recharge zone of the slope to determine the infiltration rate and validate the DFN results. The DFN and tracer test methods are frequently used at different spatial scales and for different disciplines. However, the integration of digital photogrammetry, DFN, and tracer tests may represent a new step in rockfall and landslide studies. This approach made possible the identification of groundwater flow patterns within the fracture system and revealed about a 10-day tracer transit time from the injection area and the monitored slope, with similar conductivity values gathered from both the DFN and tracer test. Planar and wedge failures with volumes ranging from 0.1 and 1 m3 are the most probable failure mechanisms in the areas. The results were consistent with the delay between the intense rainfall and the slope failures previously documented in the study area and with their mechanisms.
Cambi C., Mirabella F., Petitta M., Banzato F., Beddini G., Cardellini C., Fronzi D., Mastrorillo L., Tazioli A., Valigi D., “Reaction of the carbonate Sibillini Mountains Basal aquifer (Central Italy) to the extensional 2016–2017 seismic sequence”, Case Studies in Scientific Reports, Volume 12(1):22428, December 2022.
Abstract: Hydrogeological perturbations in response to earthquakes are widely described worldwide. In carbonate aquifers, a post-seismic discharge increase is often attributed to an increase of bulk permeability due to co-seismic fracturing and the attention on the role of faults to explain the diversion of groundwater is increasing. We focus on the reaction of carbonate hydrogeological basins to extensional seismicity, taking as an example the effects of the Central Italy 2016–2017 seismic sequence, on the Basal aquifer of the Sibillini Mountains area. Geo-structural, seismological and ground deformation data were collected and merged with artificial tracer tests results and with a 4-years discharge and geochemical monitoring campaign. The main NNW-directed groundwater flow was diverted to the west and a discharge deficit was observed at the foot-wall of the activated fault system with a relevant discharge increase, accompanied by geochemical variations, at the fault system hanging-wall. The observed variations are consistent with the combined action of a permeability increase along the activated fault systems, which modified the predominant pre-seismic along-strike regional flow, and with hydraulic conductivity increase due to fracturing, determining a fast aquifers emptying. We show that the prevailing mechanism depends on the aquifer systems position with respect to the activated faults.
Cervi F., Tazioli A., “Applying Artificial and Environmental Tracing Techniques in Hydrogeology”, Water, Volume 14(17):2618, September 2022.
Abstract: This Editorial paper sums up the contents of the Special Issue named “Applying Artificial and Environmental Tracing Techniques in Hydrogeology”. With reference to the topic of the Special Issue, here we recall that over the last decades, the use of artificial (i.e., intentionally introduced into the hydrogeological system, such as dyes) and environ- mental (i.e., entering as a part of the hydrological cycle, such as water isotopes) tracers in groundwater sciences has remarkably increased demonstrating their usefulness in solving hydrogeological problems at different spatial and time scales. Such tracers are used both in laboratory experiments (column tests) and field investigations (even at catchments and regional scales) and deal with water residence times lasting from few minutes to many millennia. They are recognized as powerful tools for obtaining information that cannot be gained by any other conventional means, such as depicting groundwater flow-paths and mixing processes among different end-members, identifying a connection between surficial water and groundwater, estimating the recharge areas of infiltrative water and quantifying pre-infiltrative evaporative processes and groundwater residence times. To date, many artificial and environmental tracers have been tested and the specific choice of a suitable one (or a subset of them; multi-tracing techniques) strictly depends on which hydrogeological investigation has to be conducted.
Massimiliano Schiavo, Nicolò Colombani, Micòl Mastrocicco “Modeling stochastic saline groundwater occurrence in coastal aquifers”, Water Research, Volume 235, May 2023, 119885.
Abstract: The issue of freshwater salinization in coastal areas has grown in importance with the increase of the demand of groundwater supply and the more frequent droughts. However, the spatial patterns of salinity contamination are not easy to be understood, as well as their numerical modeling is subject to various kinds of uncertainty. This paper offers a robust, flexible, and reliable geostatistical methodology to provide a stochastic assessment of salinity distribution in alluvial coastal areas. The methodology is applied to a coastal aquifer in Campania (Italy), where 83 monitoring wells provided depth-averaged salinity data. A Monte Carlo (MC) framework was implemented to simulate depth-averaged groundwater salinity fields. Both MC stochastic fields and the mean across MC simulations enabled to the delineation of which areas are subject to high salinity. Then, a probabilistic approach was developed setting up salinity thresholds for agricultural use to delineate the areas with unsuitable groundwater for irrigation purposes. Furthermore, steady spatial patterns of saline wedge lengths were unveiled through uncertainty estimates of seawater ingression at the Volturno River mouth. The results were compared versus a calibrated numerical model with remarkable model fit (R2=0.96) and versus an analytical solution, obtaining similar wedge lengths. The results pointed out that the high groundwater salinities found inland (more than 2 km from the coastline) could be ascribed to trapped paleo-seawater rather than to actual seawater intrusion. In fact, the inland high salinities were in correspondence of thick peaty layers, which can store trapped saline waters because of their high porosity and low permeability. Furthermore, these results are consistent with the recognition of depositional environments and the position of ancient lagoon alluvial sediments, located in the same areas where are the highest (simulated) salinity fields. This robust probabilistic approach could be applied to similar alluvial coastal areas to understand spatial patterns of present salinization, to disentangle actual from paleo-seawater intrusion, and more in general to delineate zones with unsuitable salinity for irrigation purposes.
Luigi Alessandrino, Christos Pavlakis, Nicolò Colombani, Micòl Mastrocicco, Vassilis Aschonitis, “Effects of Graphene on Soil Water-Retention Curve, van Genuchten Parameters, and Soil Pore Size Distribution—A Comparison with Traditional Soil Conditioners”, Water (Switzerland), Volume 15(7), April 2023, 1297.
Abstract: Graphene waste has had enormous growth due to many industrial applications. Agriculture exploits waste through the circular economy, and graphene waste is thereby investigated in this study as a soil conditioner for improving the physical–hydraulic properties of soil. Experiments were performed on three differently textured soils amended with traditional soil conditioners (compost, biochar, and zeolites) and graphene. The conditioners were applied at two different doses of 10% and 5% dry weight (d.w.) for compost, biochar, and zeolites, and 1.0% and 0.5% d.w. for graphene. We compared (i) the major porosity classes related to water-retention characteristics (drainage, storage, and residual porosity), (ii) bulk density, and (iii) van Genuchten water-retention curve (WRC) characteristics. Graphene application caused the largest decrease in dry bulk density (ρb), lowering the soil bulk density by about 25%. In fact, graphene had ρb of 0.01 g/cm3. The effects of graphene were more intense in the finer soil. Compost and biochar showed similar effects, but of lower magnitude compared to those of graphene, with ρb of 0.7 and 0.28 g/cm3, respectively. Although zeolites had ρb of 0.62 g/cm3, they showed quite different behavior in increasing the mixtures’ ρb. Graphene and biochar showed the most pronounced effects in the clayey soil, where storage porosity showed a reduction of >30% compared to the control. For storage porosity, the graphene treatments did not show statistically significant differences compared to the control. The results show that, when the conditioner increased drainage porosity, there was a high probability of a concomitant reduction in storage porosity. This finding indicates that graphene use for improving soil aeration and drainage conditions is viable, especially in fine soils.
Luigi Alessandrino, Nicolò Colombani, Vassilis Aschonitis, Anna Laura Eusebi, Micòl Mastrocicco “Performance of graphene and traditional soil improvers in limiting nutrients and heavy metals leaching from a sandy Calcisol”, Science of the Total Environment, Volume 858, February 2023, 159806.
Abstract: Given the large amount of Graphene produced in the last years, there is the need to introduce this new material into a green and circular economy loop. In this study, for the first time, the fate of nutrients and heavy metals in a sandy Calcisol amended with Graphene was monitored and compared to other traditional improvers such as Compost, Zeolites, and Biochar. This was performed via saturated and unsaturated columns’ experiments with two different fertilization regimes: one with NPK fertilizer and one with an innovative fertigation water (FW) produced from a pilot wastewater treatment plant. The breakthrough curves of each nutrient and heavy metal were analysed to understand the main processes occurring in saturated and unsaturated conditions, comparing the columns amended with the improvers versus the unamended Controls. Mass balances for each nutrient and heavy metal were developed to infer whether the different soil improvers were effective in minimizing leaching. Graphene, for most cases, behaved as the Control in nutrients’ leaching for all the saturated and unsaturated experiments, both with NPK and FW. Biochar increased EC, K+, and pH of the leaching water, which could be an issue for the growth of some plants. Compost increased NO3− leaching in all the experiments. Zeolites showed the best N compounds retention, but great PO43− leaching in saturated conditions. Heavy metals leachates were analysed only for unsaturated columns (as more representative of field conditions) and found at concentrations well below the limits suggested by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Overall, Graphene performed well in minimizing nutrients and heavy metals leaching, respect to classical improvers. This study is a starting point for field studies that will be critical to have a clear understanding of how Graphene behaves in the environment.
Stefano Marni, Giovanni Nava, Raouf Barboza, Tommaso Giovanni Bellini and Liana Lucchetti “Walking Ferroelectric Liquid Droplets with Light”, Advanced Materials, 2023, 2212067
Abstract: The motion of ferroelectric liquid sessile droplets deposited on a ferroelectric lithium niobate substrate can be controlled by a light beam of moderate intensity irradiating the substrate at a distance of several droplet diameters from the droplet itself. The ferroelectric liquid is a nematic liquid crystal, in which almost complete polar ordering of the molecular dipoles generates an internal macroscopic polarization locally collinear to the mean molecular long axis. Upon entering the ferroelectric phase, droplets are either attracted toward the center of the beam or repelled, depending on the side of the lithium niobate exposed to light irradiation. Moreover, moving the beam results in walking the ferroelectric droplet over long distances on the substrate. This behavior is understood as due to the coupling between the polarization of the ferroelectric droplet and the polarization photoinduced in the irradiated region of the lithium niobate substrate. Indeed, the effect is not observed in the conventional nematic phase, suggesting the crucial role of the ferroelectric liquid crystal polarization.
Stefano Marni, Raouf Barboza, Annamaria Zaltron, Liana Lucchetti “Optical control of mass ejection from ferroelectric liquid droplets: A possible tool for the actuation of complex fluids”, Journal of Molecular Liquids, 384 (2023) 122287
Abstract: We report on the optical control of the recently observed electromechanical instability of ferroelectric liquid droplets exposed to the photovoltaic field of a lithium niobate ferroelectric crystal substrate. The ferroelectric liquid is a nematic liquid crystal in which almost complete polar ordering of the molecular dipoles generates an internal macroscopic polarization locally collinear to the mean molecular long axis. Upon entering the ferroelectric phase, droplets irradiated by unfocused beam undergo an electromechanical instability and disintegrate by the explosive emission of fluid jets. We show here that the regions of jets emission can be controlled by focusing the light beam in areas close to the droplet’s edge. Once emitted, the fluid jets can be walked by moving the beam up to millimeter distance from the mother droplet. Reverting the lithium niobate substrate, jets become thinner and show the tendency of being repelled by the beam instead of being attracted, thus offering an additional tool for their optical manipulation. These observations may pave the way to intriguing applications of ferroelectric nematic fluids related to manipulation, actuation, and control of soft, flexible materials.
Proi, M.;Cubero Dudiskaya, E.; Naspetti, S.; Ozturk, E.; Zanoli, R. The role of eco-labels in making environmentally friendly choices: an eye-tracking study on aquaculture products with Italian consumers. DOI: 10.3390/su15054659. 2023. SUSTAINABILITY vol. 15
Abstract: Eco-labels are crucial in helping consumers make sustainable food choices. However, previous literature has shown that eco-labels lack visibility and, frequently, are not easy for consumers to see. The main goal of the present study was to analyse the influence of aquaculture eco-labels’ visual elements—size and saliency—on consumers’ visual attention and choice. The study uses an eye-tracking methodology, together with a choice experiment and a semiotic analysis. A word association (WA) task was used to explore how each eco-label’s graphic design influenced consumers’ perceptions. Sixty-one consumers’ eye movements were tracked while choosing smoked salmon and seabass products carrying different eco-labels. The results showed that size and saliency largely influence visual attention. The choice of aquaculture products was influenced only by the size of the eco-labels. According to the WA task, the shape, the symbols and the language in which the claim was written influenced consumers’ preferences. The findings contribute to marketing and food research, suggesting which visual elements should be considered to increase consumers’ interest in eco-labels.
Nicola Lancioni, Marco Parlapiano, Massimiliano Sgroi, Luca Giorgi, Vieri Fusi, Giovanna Darvini, Luciano Soldinic, Bartosz Szeląg, Anna Laura Eusebi, Francesco Fatone, “Polyethylene pipes exposed to chlorine dioxide in drinking water supply system: A critical review of degradation mechanisms and accelerated aging methods”, Water Research, Volume 238, 30 June 2023, 120030
Abstract: Polyethylene (PE) pipes have been widely used in drinking water distribution systems across the world. In many cases, chlorine dioxide (ClO2) is used to maintain a residual disinfectant concentration in potable water. Practical experiences have shown that the lifetime of PE pipes is significantly reduced due to exposure to drinking water with ClO2. Recently, many companies have proposed new PE pipes with a modified formulation, which are more resistant to chlorine dioxide. However, a standardized test method for evaluating the long-term performances of PE pipes is still missing. This literature review was performed to provide a description of chlorine dioxide uses and degradation mechanisms of polyethylene pipes in real water distribution systems. Current accelerated aging methods to evaluate long-term performances of PE pipes exposed to ClO2 are described and discussed along with the common technics used to characterize the specimens. Accelerate aging methods can be distinguished in immersion aging tests and pressurized pipe loop tests. Wide ranges of operational conditions (chlorine dioxide concentration, water pressure, water temperature, etc.) are applied, resulting in a great variety of results. It was concluded that pressurized looping tests applying semi-realistic operational conditions could better replicate the aging mechanisms occurring in service. Despite this, the acceleration and the evaluation of the long-term performance are still difficult to determine precisely. Further experimentation is needed to correlate chemical-mechanical characterization parameters of PE pipes with their lifetime in service.
Castagna Riccardo, Riminesi Cristiano, Di Donato Andrea, Francescangeli Oriano and Lucchetta, Daniele Eugenio “On the Use of Haloalkane/Acrylate-Based Holographic Gratings as Compression and Rotation Sensors”, Sensors Open Access Volume 23, Issue 1 January 2023 Article number 183,
Abstract: In this work, we test the effectiveness of using highly transparent holographic phase reflection and transmission volume gratings based on multifunctional acrylates as linear compression and rotation sensors. The gratings are recorded in a holographic mixture based on multi-reticulated acrylate and haloalkanes. To activate the photo-polymerization process, we used a mixture of 6-oxocamphore and rhodamine 6G. The mixture is a simplified version of the mixture used in previous works and shows some interesting features mainly in connection with the different roles played by the rhodamine 6G dye at different writing wavelengths (Formula presented.) = 532 nm and (Formula presented.) = 460 nm. Regarding reflection gratings, the maximum achieved diffraction efficiency is ≈50% and their use as linear compression sensors produces a shift in the reflection peak of 2 nm. Following the removal of compression, the grating slowly returns to the initial state. Regarding transmission gratings, the maximum achieved diffraction efficiency is ≈45% and they demonstrate very high sensitivity to even small rotations in a free-standing configuration..
Priscilla P, Deepanshu Varshney, Jai Prakash, Sandeep Kumar, Ashwani Singh, Praveen Malik, Supreet Kaur, Arvind K. Gathania, Riccardo Castagna, Daniele Eugenio Lucchetta, Gautam Singh “Eco-friendly Carbon dots induced thermally stable vertical alignment in planar anchored nematic liquid crystal”, Journal of Molecular Liquids, 2023, 122318, ISSN 0167-7322,  
Abstract: We report the induction of thermally stable vertical alignment of nematic liquid crystal, 4-cyano-4′-pentylbiphenyl (5CB), in a planar anchored cell by doping with eco-friendly carbon dots (CDs, diameter 7-8 nm), investigated through thermal, optical, electro-optical and dielectric spectroscopic techniques. Cross-polarized optical textures and voltage-dependent optical transmission measurements demonstrate the induction of vertical alignment of CDs-5CB composites with concentration of CDs (≥0.3 wt%) in planar anchored sample cells at room temperature. Moreover, the frequency-bias-concentration dependent dielectric studies done also confirms the induced vertical alignment. For instance, the relative dielectric permittivity measured on CDs-5CB composites (CDs ≥0.3 wt%) in planar anchored sample cells at bias voltage of 0 V and 30V DC are almost equal and the presence of a short axis molecular relaxation at 0V confirms the induced vertical alignment. The concentration and bias dependence of short axis molecular relaxation frequency are also discussed. It appears that CDs are able to align 5CB molecules vertically at the substrate by overcoming the pre-existing planar anchoring. Such induced alignment would propagate through the bulk of sample cell because of the coherence length of nematic liquid crystal molecules and eventually the whole sample obtains vertical alignment. We anticipate the great utility of these composites in the production of eco-friendly liquid crystal displays and other photonic devices, sensors, etc.
Ciro Tolisano, Francesca Luzi, Luca Regni, Primo Proietti, Debora Puglia, Giovanni Gigliotti, Alessandro Di Michele, Dario Priolo, Daniele Del Buono. “A way to valorize pomace from olive oil production: Lignin nanoparticles to biostimulate maize plants”. Environmental Technology & Innovation, Volume 31, 2023, 103216.
Abstract: Agriculture Agriculture will increasingly face in coming years numerous challenges, such as climate change, the growing global demand for food, its environmental impact due to greenhouse gas emissions, the release of pollutants into the environment, and the production of significant amounts of waste. This study focused on pomace, a waste of olive pressing, as it contains substances that can be valorized. Specifically, this study aimed to obtain lignin nanoparticles (LNPs) by treating the biomass with an ionic liquid (IL) composed of triethylamine and sulfuric acid [Et3NH][HSO4], having different concentrations of water (IL_95, IL_90 and IL_80). The LNPs obtained were characterized by Fourier Infrared Spectroscopy (FT-IR), Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscopy (FE-SEM), and Thermogravimetric (TGA) analysis. The 95/5 IL/water ratio allowed for obtaining the best LNPs regarding purity, yields and morphology, which were further characterized by investigating Zeta Potential (ζ) and Energy Dispersive x-ray Spectroscopy (EDX). The LNPs from IL_95 were applied to maize plants at 25, 50 and 200 mg L−1. Improvements in growth, physiological and biochemical traits were ascertained in the treated samples. LNPs generally induced photosynthetic activity, stomatal conductance and reduced cellular CO2 concentration. In addition, improvements in biomass production, root morphology and pigment content were ascertained. Finally, the study of the cellular redox state showed that the lower dosages did not cause oxidative perturbations; instead, they had ameliorative effects. In conclusion, this study opens a new way to valorize olive oil pomace by obtaining nano-scaled lignin, a sustainable and biobased material with interesting biostimulant action.
Alessandro Di Michele, Carmen Laura Pérez Gutiérrez, Cinzia Pagano, Tommaso Beccari, Maria Rachele Ceccarini, Francesca Luzi, Debora Puglia, Leonardo Tensi, Elena D’Agosto, César Antonio Viseras Iborra, Maurizio Ricci, Luana Perioli. “Formulation and characterization of sustainable bioadhesive films for wound treatment based on barley β-glucan extract obtained using the high power ultrasonic technique”. International Journal of Pharmaceutics, Volume 638, 2023, 122925,
Abstract: β-glucan is a well-known functional and bioactive food ingredient. Recently, some studies highlighted several interesting pharmacological activities, such as hypocholesterolemic, hypoglycemic, immunomodulatory, antitumor, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. The aim of this study is to evaluate a novel application of β-glucan, obtained from barley, for the development of formulations for skin use. Several water suspensions were obtained from barley flour of different particle sizes treated by high power ultrasonic (HPU) technique. Barley flour fraction in the range of 400–500 μm allowed to obtain a stable suspension, represented both by a water soluble and water insoluble fraction of β-glucans, that showed excellent film forming ability. The plasticizer sorbitol as well as the bioadhesive biopolymer acacia gum were added to this suspension in order to obtain a gel suitable to prepare films by casting. The obtained films demonstrated suitable mechanical properties and ability to stimulate in vitro keratinocytes growth suggesting its possible application in dermatological field as for wound treatment. This study demonstrated the dual use of barley suspension: as excipient and as active ingredient.
C. Patiño Vidal, Francesca Luzi, Debora Puglia, Gracia López-Carballo, Adrián Rojas, María José Galotto, C. López de Dicastillo. Development of a sustainable and antibacterial food packaging material based in a biopolymeric multilayer system composed by polylactic acid, chitosan, cellulose nanocrystals and ethyl lauroyl arginate”. Food Packaging and Shelf Life, Volume 36, 2023, 101050,
Abstract: Biodegradable packaging materials with antimicrobial properties are main key for developing sustainable active packages able to protect different foodstuff. Thus, the aim of this research was developing a biopolymeric and antibacterial packaging material with a trilayer structure through the combination of extrusion, electrospinning and coating techniques. This trilayer system was composed by a support extruded layer of polylactic acid (PLA), an intermediate PLA electrospun layer loaded with ethyl lauroyl arginate (LAE) and cellulose nanocrystals (CNC), and a third inner chitosan coating. Morphological, wettability, antibacterial and disintegrability properties of this material were evaluated. The morphological surface analysis evidenced the heterogeneity of the chitosan coating over the electrospun PLA layer, and this effect affected negatively the evaluation of wettability of this trilayer material. Antibacterial assays evidenced a fast and strong bactericidal effect against Gram(+) and (−) bacteria that maintained this activity for 15 days. Finally, the biodegradable properties of different layers favored the disintegration of developed trilayer material at 21 days under composting conditions.
Paolo Benincasa, Franco Dominici Francesca Luzi, Catia Governatori, Laura Gazza, Elena Galassi, Giacomo Tosti Debora Puglia. “Crop Nitrogen Fertilization Schedule in Bread Wheat Affects the Mechanical Performances of Thermoplastic Films Obtained by Plasticization of Flours”. Agronomy. 2023; 13(3):697
Abstract: Recent research has investigated the plasticization of wheat flour as a non-food alternative application. In this work, we analyzed the performances of thermoplastic films obtained using flours of two bread wheat cultivars (Bologna and Bora) grown in fall–spring under four nitrogen (N) fertilization treatments: (1) continuously well-N-fed (N300 = 300 kg N ha−1, split throughout the growth cycle); (2) N-fed only very early (N60-0 = 60 kg N ha−1, just one month after sowing); (3) N-fed only extremely late (N0-120 = 120 kg N ha−1 at pollination); (4) unfertilized control (N0). Flours were characterized for glutenin and gliadin fractions, Chopin’s alveograph parameters, Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscopy (FESEM) images, and thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), while films were evaluated for mechanical properties (tensile strength at break, σb; elongation at break, εb; Young’s modulus, E) and FESEM images. Differences among treatments for absolute and relative abundances of gluten fractions and alveographic parameters were extremely marked and gave rise to differences in tensile properties of thermoplastic films. Within each cultivar, the ranking of treatments for εb values was N0 > N60-0 > N0-120 > N300. Thus, εb was inversely correlated with crop N availability and total gluten content of the flour. The σb was less variable among N treatments; however, in both cultivars, it was high in N0 and N300 and appreciably lower in N0-120. Overall, the best mechanical performances were obtained with flours from crops not subjected to imbalances in N nutrition (N0, N300). Our work demonstrates that bioplastic engineering needs to take into consideration the variability of biological source material like that caused by different crop N availability.
Catia Clementi, Franco Dominici, Francesca Luzi, Debora Puglia, Loredana Latterini. Historically Inspired Strategy to Achieve Sustainable and Effective Coloration of Bioplastics ACS Sustainable Chemistry Engigneering 2023, June 19, 2023,
Abstract: The use of historical organic pigments is an interesting strategy to provide color nuances to biopolymers while achieving good solid optical effects. In this work, aqueous extracts of logwood (LW) are tested as a natural source of color for the sustainable production of an organic purple pigment (LWP) taking advantage of the historical lake approach. Different amounts of LWP (0.01–2% wt) are used for the effective coloration of polycaprolactone (PCL), polybutylene succinate (PBS), and polylactide (PLA). The full characterization of LWP and LWP-treated biopolymer samples enables the spectral and color properties of the composites to be defined where the exceptional color efficiency of LWP is demonstrated by the very low amount (0.5% wt) necessary to reach the saturation. The evolution of spectra and color coordinates under accelerated aging conditions is monitored for LWP-polymer samples. A 10–12% decrease of the visible absorption band is detected after prolonged irradiation, resulting in a moderate color fading for PBS compared to PCL samples, while negligible changes are observed for PLA samples. The results demonstrate that LWP constitutes an efficient and sustainable source of color for the analyzed polymers without causing significant changes in the tensile and thermal properties of the polymeric matrix.
Belli Alberto, Mobili Alessandra, Bellezze Tiziano, Cachim Paulo B., Tittarelli Francesca (2023). Commercial and recycled carbon-based fillers and fibers for self-sensing cement-based composites: Comparison of mechanical strength, durability, and piezoresistive behavior, Journal of Building Engineering, Volume 73, 15 August 2023, 106836.
Abstract: The possible use of industrial by-products as carbon-based fillers and/or fibers to produce Multifunctional Cement-based Composites (MCC) with piezoresistive behavior for Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) was investigated. As fillers, Used Foundry Sand (UFS) and Gasification Char (GCH) were compared with commercial Graphene Nanoplatelets (GNP). As fibers, 6 mm-long recycled carbon fibers (RCF) were compared with virgin ones. Mortars were tested in terms of mechanical strength, water absorption, microstructure, and piezoresistive behavior. UFS and GCH are more effective than GNP in decreasing the mortar electrical resistivity (−30%), total porosity (−11%), water absorption (−27%) and in increasing the compressive strength (+10%). The combination of UFS with RCF in mortars provides the best results in terms of fluidity, strength, water absorption, and piezoresistive parameters. Generally, a lower mortar resistivity, even if with lower piezoresistivity properties, allows the use of cheaper instrumentation for SHM, thanks to the lower full scale and the better correlation strength between the change in resistivity with strain.  
Mobili Alessandra, Cosoli Gloria, Giulietti Nicola, Paolo Chiariotti, Bellezze Tiziano, Pandarese Giuseppe, Revel Gian Marco, Tittarelli Francesca (2023). Biochar and recycled carbon fibres as additions for low-resistive cement-based composites exposed to accelerated degradation, Construction and Building Materials, Volume 3762 May 2023, Article number 131051  
Abstract: Biochar (BCH) and recycled carbon fibres (RCF) were used as carbonaceous additions in low-resistive mortars/concretes. Their effects on mechanical, electrical, and durability properties were investigated. Tests were performed both during curing and accelerated degradation. The combined use of RCF and BCH decreased the electrical impedance of cement-based matrices, enabling the use of low-cost monitoring instrumentation, and improved their mechanical performance. Recycled carbon fibres and biochar additions increased carbonation and capillary water absorption but acting as a barrier they made water and chlorides penetrate less deeply.
Giosuè Chiara, Pierpaoli, Mattia, di Perna, Costanzo, Citterio, Barbara, Mangiaterra, Gianmarco, Ruello, Maria Letizia, Tittarelli Francesca, Properties of an innovative multi-functional finish for the improvement of indoor air quality, Building and Environment, Volume 2331 April 2023, Article number 110091  
Abstract: Due to lifestyle changes, people spend most of their time indoors at present; thus, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is a matter of utmost importance. Multi-functional and innovative finishes can help to passively improve the IAQ, benefitting the health and comfort of occupants. For this study, reference and pre-mixed commercial mortars are compared to a new multi-functional hydraulic lime mortar for indoor finishes, in which conventional aggregates are substituted by a highly porous adsorbent material and biomass waste ashes. The up to 20% higher accessible porosity of the multi-functional finish led to lower density (30%), higher thermal insulation properties (30%), higher water vapor permeability (more than 40%), and improved moisture buffering capacity (three times higher), when compared to the reference mortar. Different types of photocatalytic agents (TiO2) were also added into the new multi-functional hydraulic lime mortar, in order to investigate their effect on the de-polluting properties of the finish. Even if the photocatalytic efficiency remained unexpressed under indoor conditions, due to the predominance of the adsorption process, the de-polluting properties of the new mix were more than 30% higher than that of the reference mortar. The obtained results confirm that the developed innovative multi-functional finish—besides fulfilling the ordinary requirements—is better than commercial mortars, as it can improve the IAQ passively, thus benefitting the health and comfort of occupants.
Evelina Fratalocchi, Jonathan Domizi, Mirko Felici, Francesco Mazzieri, “Sorption and hydraulic performance of cement-bentonite cutoffs in saline sulphatic solutions”, Soils and Foundations, Volume 63, Issue 3, June 2023, Article 101315.
Abstract: The paper discusses the results of an experimental research on the short and long term hydraulic performance and sorption of cement-bentonite mixtures in saline sulphate solutions. Batch tests at different curing times and permeation tests were performed on three cement-bentonite mixtures with solutions of K2SO4. The results show that permeation can adversely affect the hydraulic performance of cement-bentonite mixtures depending on the sulphate concentration and mixture composition and that the choice of a very low permeable mixture is essential to limit adverse effects of interaction with SO42- on the hydraulic performance. Sorption of K+ was found to be significant, well described by a linear isotherm in a wide range of concentration and nearly constant with curing. Sorption of SO42- was found to decreases with mixture porosity. Since sorption of SO42- means negative interaction, batch tests were found to be useful for a rapid estimation of possible negative effect of SO42- on the hydraulic behaviour in the long term, when selecting a mixture in the design phase. All the results point out the importance of selecting a mixture to be used for cut-off walls with a low hydraulic conductivity already at brief curing and of carefully considering interaction with solute pollutants and sorption capacity.
Influence of Trabecular Geometry on Scaffold Mechanical Behavior and MG-63 Cell Viability Maria Laura Gatto, Giorgia Cerqueni, Michele Furlani, Nicole Riberti, Emanuele Tognoli, Lucia Denti, Francesco Leonardi, Alessandra Giuliani, Monica Mattioli-Belmonte, Paolo Mengucci Materials 2023, 16, 2342.
Abstract: In a scaffold-based approach for bone tissue regeneration, the control over morphometry allows for balancing scaffold biomechanical performances. In this experimental work, trabecular geometry was obtained by a generative design process, and scaffolds were manufactured by vat photopolymerization with 60% (P60), 70% (P70) and 80% (P80) total porosity. The mechanical and biological performances of the produced scaffolds were investigated, and the results were correlated with morphometric parameters, aiming to investigate the influence of trabecular geometry on the elastic modulus, the ultimate compressive strength of scaffolds and MG-63 human osteosarcoma cell viability. The results showed that P60 trabecular geometry allows for matching the mechanical requirements of human mandibular trabecular bone. From the statistical analysis, a general trend can be inferred, suggesting strut thickness, the degree of anisotropy, connectivity density and specific surface as the main morphometric parameters influencing the biomechanical behavior of trabecular scaffolds, in the perspective of tissue engineering applications.
Insights into PLGA-encapsulated epigallocatechin 3-gallate nanoparticles as a new potential biomedical system: A computational and experimental approach Cristina Minnelli, Pierluigi Stipa, Simona Sabbatini, Paolo Mengucci, Giovanna Mobbili, Roberta Galeazzi, Tatiana Armeni, Brenda Romaldi, Annamaria Celli, Emiliano Laudadio European Polymer Journal 182 (2023) 111723
Abstract: Biodegradable poly-lactic poly-glycolic copolymer (PLGA) represents one of the best strategies adopted to convey small molecules unstable and characterised by a low bioavailability if administered without vehicles. This is the case of Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which is one of the most interesting polyphenols from a biomedical point of view. In this study, the impact of EGCG on PLGA nanoparticles (NPs) properties has been studied underlining the role of the binary PVA/Poloxamer-407 as stabilizer system for obtaining colloidal stable NPs. Characterization has been carried out by dynamic light scattering (DLS), encapsulation efficiency, drug release studies, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and infrared spectroscopy (IR). Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations have been used to model the PLGA and EGCG systems to understand the behaviour of NPs and the interactions that guided the EGCG encapsulation. The nanodispersions exhibited promising cytotoxic potentials in human lung carcinoma A549 cell lines enhancing the well-known growth inhibitor effect of the free EGCG.