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Italy, a peninsular country, expands into the central Mediterranean Sea, northeast of Tunisia, and covers an overall area of 301,340 km2. As of July 2014, the country has a population of 61,070,224.
The country has a diversified industrial free market economy that is mainly controlled by private firms. Earlier, Italy was a charter member of the European Economic Community (EEC) and NATO. It is famous for high-quality consumer goods manufactured by medium- and small-sized enterprises. With a 2013 GDP of $2.149 trillion, Italy is the eighth European country to have the third-largest economy in the world.
Machinery, tourism, chemicals, iron and steel, clothing, textiles, food processing, footwear, ceramics, and motor vehicles are the major industries in Italy.
Italy is home to several networks and organizations dedicated to exploring and promoting nanoscience. A short introduction to Italy’s main nanotechnology-related organizations is provided below.
Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT)
The aim of this institute is to boost Italy’s technological advancement and higher education in science and technology, targeting on multi-disciplinary fields like nanobiotechnology, robotics, computer science, industry, and medicine.
Coordinamento Interuniversitario Veneto per le Nanotecnologie (CIVEN)
CIVEN works as a support system for the local economy via the sustainable application of nanotechnology and the ensuing breakthroughs developed in its labs and in the departments of its member universities, as well as through the training of experienced managers. Nanotechnology has allowed the university to generate profitable business.
Since nanotechnology is a versatile domain, it is used in many different industries. The following sections list the leading nanotechnology companies in Italy together with a short description of each of them.
Tec Star is a dynamic, young, and active company that specializes in developing state-of-the-art solutions for nanotechnology industrial applications.
The core businesses of the company are research and development, engineering, production, and marketing of novel nanostructured materials for the automotive, mechanical, aeronautical, chemical, glass, ceramics, composite materials, plastic materials, polymer industries, and textile, and everything related to these sectors.
Particularly, the main business of Tec Star is focused on producing nanoparticles, which are utilized as nanofillers within a variety of industrial products, and developing state-of-the-art solutions customized to meet the requirements of the companies that decide to begin a partnership with the company.
MBN Nanomaterialia was established in the year 1994 from an original concept of its founder and his close associates. Based on an unusual solid-stage synthesis technology, the company and its collaborators constructed an industrial organization and technological plants. They are also able to offer novel materials for a wide array of applications.
MBN Nanomaterialia provides the latest and highly technological raw materials that have singular properties. These materials can be converted into components and goods through conventional industrial manufacturing methods. The company prefers unique solutions and rapid product innovations.
NANO-CAT, Center for Advanced NANO-technologies s.r.l, is a top international company that specializes in the area of chemical and physical nanotechnologies. Established in 2007, NANO-CAT is a research and development organization (SME) that promotes its novel products to numerous industrial applications.
For its industrial customers, NANO-CAT offers nanohybrid materials endowed with excellent properties and functionality. The company is a complete-service provider in this field and provides turnkey solutions and also solutions to particular tasks in the fields of medicine, transport, energy, defense, security, environment, biology, and space research. The service portfolio ranges from consultation in materials production, engineering, and applications support through to materials characterization.
Scriba Nanotecnologie S.r.l is a research and development company located in Bologna, Italy. Research scientists of CNR ISMN Bologna—Francesco Cino Matacotta, Massimiliano Cavallini, and Fabio Biscarini—established Scriba Nanotecnologie as a start-up venture of the National Council of Research (CNR) in 2005.
Later in 2006, IMA SpA, a top industrial group in packaging machines for coffee, tea, and pharma, joined the company as an industrial partner. Scriba Nanotecnologie is a high-knowledge content company, and all its employees have Masters or PhD degrees.
A privately held company, Tethis S.p.A. is focused on the nanotechnology and biotechnology fields. It aims to become a top solution provider for tools development and production and in vitro diagnostics (IVD) devices.
Tethis is working toward this goal via its proprietary technologies, internal R&D, and product development capabilities. The scientific and technological background of Tethis is built on two platforms—biotechnology and nanomaterials. The technologies that form the origin of Tethis activity help in the accurate development and control of nanoparticles in the gas phase and enable these particles to be easily incorporated in devices.
The company is open to collaborations with external partners looking for support in their new product development programs, as well as in device prototyping or collaborative projects participation.
Nanto Protective Coating
Nanto Protective Coating (NPC) develops products like novel fire-retardant and anti-corrosion coatings that are based on proprietary nanotechnology. The company delivers smart coatings, which integrate the highest standard of quality with real benefits and value additions for numerous applications and a broad range of market sectors.
NPC is a specialized firm focused on producing nano-formulated polymers and coatings, in which exclusively treated nanoparticles are dispersed. The company is competing with top paint producers to bring smart coatings and multi-functional coatings into the market.
Nanotechnology Education and Research
Italy has several universities that provide educational and research opportunities in nanotechnology. The following sections give a list of universities located in Italy as well as the research opportunities or academic courses provided by them in different aspects of nanotechnology.
National Nanotechnology Laboratory (NNL)
NNL is an inter-disciplinary nanotechnology facility dedicated to nanoscale technology and research. It functions at the University of Lecce (Dept. Ingegneria dell’innovazione).
Veneto Nanotech is part of Foscari University of Venice. This research center was established with the aim to promote the application of nanotechnology, to build international excellence in research, and to support the development of start-up ventures in this sector.
CNR-IFN conducts innovative studies in the fields of nanotechnologies and photonics to promote their development and applications, both from the technological and scientific perspective in the following key research lines:
- Development and use of laser sources
- Novel devices for electronics, optoelectronics, and photonics
- Nanotechnologies, nano and micro-manufacturing/fabrication
- Innovative characterization techniques and new materials
- Photonics sensors
- Ultrafast photonics from infrared to X-ray
- Optical spectrometers and instrumentation from infrared to X-ray
LATEMAR (Laboratorio di Tecnologie Elettrobiochimiche Miniaturizzate per l’Analisi e la Ricerca)
LATEMAR is a Center of Excellence supported by MIUR for private and public research structures working in strategic areas for the country. The aim of this laboratory is to develop nano- and micro-devices and sensors for post-genomics and genomics together with research and development centers of highly qualified companies.
Polytechnic University of Turin
The Polytechnic University of Turin provides a Master’s level program in Nanotechnology for ICT Engineering.
University of Milano Bicocca
The University of Milano Bicocca provides PhD programs in nanotechnologies and nanostructures via its Department of Materials Science.
University of Modena and Reggio Emilia
The University of Modena and Reggio Emilia enables research work of the Theoretical Nanoscience Group—part of the university’s Physics Department. Focus is mainly given to the fundamental characteristics of nanoscale structures, specifically low-dimensional quantum systems and their use in next-generation nano-devices.
Carbon Nanotechnology Group
Carbon Nanotechnology Group is part of the Department of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences. The team is led by Professor Maurizio Prato, providing both research and academic opportunities. Research work like organic functionalization of carbon nanotubes, organic functionalization of fullerenes, etc. is demonstrated here.
Centre for Nanoscience and Technology (CNST)
Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia established this center with Italian academies to foster synergy in the national research. The center’s mission is breakthrough research in material science covering printed electronics, molecular electronics, material chemistry, optical-morphological-photophysical and theoretical characterization, and nanotechnology fabrication.
Along with his team, Roberto Cingolani, director at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) in Genoa, Italy, created a polymer in April 2012. This polymer was obtained from the molecules or monomers present in paper along with nanoparticles developed in the laboratory. It was combined in a solution to produce a polymeric matrix, which can be used on paper either by injecting, spray-coating, dipping, or rolling. The resultant nanotech paper is said to be antibacterial, magnetic, and waterproof.
SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, and seven other organizations organized the 2012 Winter College on Nano-Optics and Plasmonics to meet the demands of students and researchers in developing countries. The event was held in February at the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste.
The “Nanoscience and nanotechnology 2012” conference was held in Rome in October 2012. It demonstrated the latest advancements in nanoscience and its numerous technological applications in a wide range of fields.
NanotechItaly 2012 was held at the Convention Center of the NH Hotel Laguna Palace Venice-Mestre from November 21st to 23rd, 2012. The conference was set up to demonstrate worldwide efforts in nanotechnologies under the support of the President of the Italian Republic.
In May 2012, the European Patent Office honored a group comprising scientists from France and Italy for its invention of nano-capsules—a drug delivery system with units that were 70 times smaller than red blood cells and shielded by a biodegradable coating, which kills cancer cells without damaging healthy tissue.
In the same month, a group of Italian scientists also devised an all-optical technique to determine the temperature of gold nanorods and nanostars during nanoparticle-induced hyperthermia—a technique in which heat is used to treat cancer.
Italy has numerous organizations and companies involved in nanotechnology. If the nanotech advances of these companies match the appeal of Italy as a destination for nanotech events and conferences, they would be well positioned to exploit the nanotechnology revolution. Two fields of synergy for Italy would be chemicals and textiles and clothing, with current industries well placed to combine nanotech solutions into novel products.