Experimental physics

Structure and physical properties of soft matter

The research activity is focused on the investigation of soft materials, in particular novel liquid crystals, polymers and biosystems, of potential interest for innovative applications in the fields of nano- and bio-technologies, such as electronic and photonic devices, materials for integrated optics and sensors, nano-patterning and nano-lithography, high mechanical-performance materials, biomaterials for nanomedicine and biosensing. The research is based on the study of the relationships between the peculiar macroscopic properties of these materials and their structure at the nanoscale. To this end, a key role is played by X-ray diffraction and scattering techniques (XRD, SAXS, XRR, GIXRD, GISAXS) used as the primary tool of experimental investigation.  Investigated soft materials include: thermotropic liquid crystals, metallorganic liquid crystals, liquid crystal polymers, dye-doped liquid crystals, polymer dispersed liquid crystals, polymer-based hybrid nanocomposites, block copolymers, lyotropic liquid crystals of biological interest. The research is carried out in collaboration with partner groups from several foreign institutions and is carried out both at the department laboratory (se possible inserire link a pagina laboratorio diffrattometria RX) and at the large international facilities for the study of the structure of matter, in particular the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France, the Elettra Synchrotron in Trieste, Italy, the ALBA Synchrotron in Barcelona, Spain, the Diamond Light Source in Oxford, UK.

Strong graphene oxide nanocomposites from aqueous hybrid liquid crystals – NATURE COMMUNICATIONS vol.11, 830 (2020)
M. Hegde, L. Yang, F. Vita, R.J. Fox, R. van de Watering, B. Norder, U. Lafont, O. Francescangeli, L.A. Madsen, S.J. Picken, E.T. Samulski & T.J. Dingemans

Search for microscopic and macroscopic biaxiality in the cybotactic nematic phase of new oxadiazole bent-core mesogens – PHYSICAL REVIEW E vol.93, 062701 (2016)
Y.-K. Kim, G. Cukrov, F. Vita, E. Scharrer, E.T. Samulski, O. Francescangeli & O.D. Lavrentovich

Micrometer-scale ordering of silicon-containing block copolymer thin films via high-temperature thermal treatments – ACS APPLIED MATERIALS & INTERFACES vol.8, 9897 (2016)
T.J. Giammaria, F. Ferrarese Lupi, G. Seguini, M. Perego, F. Vita, O. Francescangeli, B. Wenning, C.K. Ober, K. Sparnacci, D. Antonioli, V. Gianotti & M. Laus

Evidence of biaxial order in the cybotactic nematic phase of bent-core mesogens – CHEMISTRY OF MATERIALS vol.26, 4671 (2014)
F. Vita, T. Tauscher, F. Speetjens, E.T. Samulski, E. Scharrer & O. Francescangeli

Extraordinary magnetic field effect in bent-core liquid crystals – PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS vol.107, 207801 (2011)
O. Francescangeli, F. Vita, F. Fauth & E.T. Samulski

Cybotaxis dominates the nematic phase of bent-core mesogens: A small-angle diffuse X-ray diffraction study – SOFT MATTER vol.7, 895 (2011)
O. Francescangeli, F. Vita, C. Ferrero, T. Dingemans & E.T. Samulski


Materials investigated include polymers, thermotropic and lyotropic liquidcrystals, composites and self-assembled structureswith organic compounds. Materials for musical instruments.
Phenomena investigated include nonlinear opticalproperties, optical trapping and manipulation, light induced memory effects,holographic patterning of special morphologies,optical actuation, lasing, vibrations.
Applications considered include lab-on-chipdevices, opto-fluidic devices, optical data storage,spatial light modulation, optical signal processing, viscoelastic characterization of soft materials, 3D optical data acquisition, rapid prototyping, optoacoustic and vibrational analysis and testing on musical instruments.
Optofluidic platform using liquid crystals in lithium niobite microchannel – SCIENTIFIC REPORTS vol.9, 1062 (2019)
Silvio Bonfadini, Fabrizio Ciciulla, Luigino Criante, Annamaria Zaltron, Francesco Simoni, Victor Reshetnyak  & Liana Lucchetti
Non –linear optical measurement of the twist elastic constant in thermotropic and DNA lyotropic chiral nematics – SCIENTIFIC REPORTS vol.7, 4959 (2017)
Liana Lucchetti, Tommaso P. Fraccia, Fabrizio Ciciulla and Tommaso Bellini
Light-actuated contactless macro motors exploiting Bénard–Marangoni convection – OPTICS EXPRESS vol.27, 13574 (2019)
Daniele Lucchetta, Riccardo Castagna, Francesco Simoni
Colossal nonlinear optical response of liquid crystals – JOURNAL OF MOLECULAR LIQUIDS vol.267, 67 (2018)
Francesco Simoni, Liana Lucchetti
An Unconventional Approach to Photomobile Composite Polymer Films – ADVANCED MATERIALS vol.29, 1604800 (2017)
R.Castagna, L.Nucara, F. Simoni, L. Greci, M. Rippa, L. Petti, D. E. Lucchetta
Giant optical nonlinearity in DNA lyotropic liquid crystals – OPTICS EXPRESS vol.25, 25951 (2017)
L.Lucchetti, T. P. Fraccia, F. Ciciulla, F.Simoni, T.Bellini