The University of Southampton

Exploring the Intelligence of Materials in Nanoscience

Published: 6 November 2018

Abstract Smart materials change their properties in response to environmental stimuli (electric or magnetic field, mechanical stress, temperature, optical, pH, etc.). They can be polymers, ceramic, metals or a combination of more materials. Understanding the chemical and physical properties of these materials is crucial to find out their application. Nowadays, this category of material results quite appealing in several sectors such as nanotechnology, medical science and agriculture. In this talk, smart materials will be explored in four different applications. Piezoelectric materials have been used to generate surface acoustic waves (SAWs) employed in microfluidic systems to drive fluid in counterflow regime. Conductive polymers have been engineered to improve their conductivity and exploited as smart supports to dynamically stimulate cells in vitro. Ionic liquids have been used as a coating to protect turbine blades from corrosion. Electro-active hydrogels have been studied as bio-mimetic support to stimulate muscular cells.

Bio: Ilaria Sanzari is a Biomedical Engineer whose interests are mainly focused on the application of smart materials in multidisciplinary sectors. Her scientific knowledge was matured since she graduated in Biomedical Engineering at University of Pisa (Italy). During her BSc and MSc project, Ilaria had the opportunity to work in two excellent institutes in Pisa (Italy): National Enterprise for nanoScience and nanotechnology (NEST) Institute, and Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna. She was trained in the cleanrooms of both departments, and she became an independent user of different tools. The versatility of her professional education was successively practised at the Chemistry Department of the University of Florence, where she was researcher collaborator in an FP7 European Project. Her experience in the cleanroom continued during the PhD at the Nanofabrication Centre in Southampton where she worked in the fabrication and characterisation of hydrogels for applications in tissue engineering. She mainly developed protocols to adapt hydrogels and soft materials to microfabrication techniques. All the milestones of the PhD project were undertaken by Ilaria demonstrating independence and leadership under the supervision of Prof Themistoklis Prodromakis and Prof Hywel Morgan. The contribution of her work was acknowledged as first author of peer-reviewed publications in prestigious journals. Ilaria’s multidisciplinary background was also put in practice in the sector of phytopharmacy developing two ‘utility model’ patents in collaboration with a pharmaceutical company. Ilaria is now Senior Research Assistant working in EPSRC project with Prof Liudi Jiang and Dr Vassili Fedotov.

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