Nanomaterials are a new class of materials where useful properties are customized by controlling the nanoscale structure of the materials. Often, this can be done by controlling properties as trivial as size. This flexibility adds a new dimension to how we approach synthesis of new materials. No longer are we limited to the periodic table alone!


The Bigioni group is interested in synthesizing new materials, controlling their organization, and characterizing their properties. These materials are most often ligand-passivated colloidal nanoparticles, which are very flexible due to their structure: physical properties are governed by the core while chemical properties are controlled by the ligand shell. We study the chemistry and physics of noble metal nanoparticles, from a couple dozen atoms to about ten thousand atoms in the core. The smallest particles give us insights into the formation of bulk metals and the rules that govern the structure and stability of nanostructures. The larger particles have optical properties that can be used for energy transfer and imaging studies. We also make semiconductor nanowires in anodic aluminum oxide templates, which allow us to closely examine the materials science of semiconductor heterojunctions and interface chemistry.


We are applying these materials primarily to thin film and nanostructured photovoltaics, including dye-sensitized solar cells and nanowire arrays. While solar cells are one of our major focus areas, colloidal nanoparticles are also useful in fundamental studies of the interparticle forces and interactions that control their assembly. Some other applications include catalysis, sensing and magnetic data storage.


We also make movies and art and are very interested in science education and outreach, especially nanotechnology and alternative energy. If you are not a professional scientist (or even if you are), you should check out our outreach page for some cool movies of dancing cornstarch and bouncing drops. There are some spectacular still images too.


Our work is quite interdisciplinary so we encourage people with various expertise to join our group!