Francesco Stellacci Ph.D.

Stellacci, Francesco
Position Department / Business Unit
Assistant Professor Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Institution Disciplines
MIT Engineering Nanomaterials
City State / Provence
Cambridge Massacheusetts
Country Website
United States link

Professor Stellacci's research interests are in nano-science and nano-technology, specifically in the synthesis, characterization and nano-patterning of metal nanoparticles. These particles consist of a small metallic core (~3 nm) coated with a self-assembled monolayer of a mixture of tailor-made organic ligands. A simple one-pot synthesis generates a very complex and stable supra-molecular assembly of more than 2000 diverse organic molecules around a metallic quantum dot. The nature and composition of the mixture ligands can be systematically changed to give the nanoparticles a wide variety of properties, ranging from site-specific interaction with functionalized surfaces to electron transport, ballistic conductivity, and enhanced linear and non-linear optical properties.

The main technological goal is the fabrication of nanoparticle-based devices, such as transistors and nano-waveguides that could be used as sensors for biologically relevant molecules or as active components in the next generation of electronic or optical computing machines. Modern nano-lithography techniques based on the use of Scanning Probe Microscopy (such as AFM and STM) are the main tool that enables the fabrication and integration of these complex devices.

The main scientific effort is in the understanding of the complex interfacial relationship between organic molecules and metallic nanocrystals. The challenge is to understand and control how the nature of the energy levels of the organic ligands can modulate the properties of the metallic quantum dot and of the whole nanoparticle.

The main ongoing projects that are offered are:

  1. synthesis of a series of metal nanoparticles coated with conjugated organic ligands and characterization of the variation their electronic properties as a function of the relative position of the metal Fermi level and of the lowest unoccupied molecular orbital (LUMO) of the ligands.
  2. fabrication of Single Electron Transistors (SETs) based on a single silver nanoparticle coated with a DNA strand and characterization of the switching behavior upon binding of the complement DNA strand
  3. fabrication of ordered arrays of nanoparticles, the characterization of their nano-waveguiding properties (based on the plasmonic-induced particle to particle energy transfer) and study of the changes induced to the light harvesting properties by the selective binding of biological molecules.
  4. fabrication of left-handed materials (negative refractive index materials, theoretically predicted to be perfect lenses) at optical frequencies, and characterization of their optical properties
  5. development of nano-contact printing, a new technique for stamping of nanoscale patterns.


Doctorate, Materials Science and Engineering, Politecnico di Milano, 1998

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