Photoactive Molecular Devices and Machines

Photochemistry; supramolecular chemistry; molecular machines; photochromic compounds; nanoscience.

Scientific coordinator

Serena Silvi

Associate Professor

Research activity

The research activity of Serena Silvi consists in the photochemical and electrochemical study of complex molecular and supramolecular systems.

The main investigated systems are:

- pseudorotaxanes, rotaxanes and catenanes, as prototypes of artificial molecular machines

- photochromic systems (like azobenzene and spiropyrans)

- metal complexes

These systems are characterized in their basic physicochemical properties, and then they are exploited as molecular components for artificial molecular machines or systems for information processing.

The scientific activity concerns the design and the photophysical, photochemical and electrochemical study of molecular and supramolecular complex systems, which can perform useful functions. Two main research subjects can be identified: 

1. Artificial molecular machines

This research theme consists in the design and characterization of supramolecular systems, like rotaxanes, catenanes and related species, whose molecular components can perform rotary or linear movements, upon appropriate external stimuli. The aim of this research is obtaining potentially useful functions from the operation of these machines: for example the insertion into systems like the liposomes allow the study of their effect on the stability of the membranes; in addition it is possible to design machines capable of catching and releasing other molecular species, or capable of performing a mechanical work, which can be amplified from the molecular to the macroscopic level.

2. Systems for information processing

This research theme consists in the design and characterization of molecular and supramolecular systems capable of gathering, storing and processing information. The investigated molecular species are able, for example to perform the function of molecular logic gates. The “bottom-up” approach to the miniaturization could be useful not only to reduce the dimension of the components and improve the performances of computers, but also to develop new technologies and materials.