Politecnico di Milano: Equilibrium Gels: New Study On Science Advances

The prestigious journal ‘Science Advances’ has published a study resulting from a collaboration between the Department of Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering ‘Giulio Natta’ at the Politecnico di Milano and the Department of Physics at the ‘La Sapienza’ University of Rome. The research was conducted under the PRIN project ‘Soft Adaptive Networks’, for which Francesco Sciortino (La Sapienza) is the national principal investigator and Roberto Piazza is the Politecnico unit head.

The research regarded gels composed of DNA ‘nanostars’, nanostructures consisting of multiple arms connected by a common core. Such systems can form two types of gel. The first is due to phase separation, as normally occurs in colloidal systems. In the second, ‘equilibrium gels’, the network forms progressively and continuously.

The latter, predicted theoretically by Prof. Sciortino for ‘reduced valence’ particles, that is, those that interact only through a limited number of surface sites, were first observed in this work using a new optical correlation technique called ‘2D Photon Correlation Imaging’. This technique was originally developed by Enrico Lattuada in the Soft Matter lab in the Department of Chemistry at the Politecnico, later moving to La Sapienza, where Dr Lattuada is currently a postdoc researcher.

The research, with first author Enrico Lattuada, is co-authored by Debora Caprara, Francesco Sciortino (La Sapienza) and Roberto Piazza (Politecnico di Milano).