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News & Events ■ News ■ 2014 News

News 2014

The laboratories of graphene have been completed with an initial investment of € 3 million

30 researchers dedicated to the transfer in the production fabric of the new technologies based on two-dimensional materials.

With a starting investment of € 3 million, the first nucleus of Graphene Labs, the laboratories of graphene, have been made at the IIT in Genoa. It is one of the main infrastructure at international level dedicated to the development of graphene and other two-dimensional materials. The investment – which is expected to grow in the next years - is meant to transfer the new graphene-based technology to the productive system. The Graphene Labs, coordinated by Vittorio Pellegrini, aim at being a shared facility for the Italian manufacturing firms interested in the production of graphene and other two-dimensional crystals and in the realization of a new class of stronger and lighter composite materials.

The IIT’s Graphene Labs involve about 30 people including scientists, engineers and students, and a structure dedicated to technology transfer. The lab facility includes systems for the production of graphene inks, industrial machines for the growth of the material on metal and silicon-based substrates, systems for the deposition of large-scale graphene films and the most advanced and sophisticated instruments for its analysis.

The laboratory has already attracted a group of companies operating in Italy - Thales, Solvay, Dyers, Directa Plus, Tiberlabs, Momo Design, Gewiss, Nokia, Baldasari Cavi - which are developing prototypes. The idea at the basis of Graphene Labs is to make graphene – currently used mainly for sophisticated and high costs productions - a low-cost product suitable for the development of the manufacture for wide consumption.

The IIT’s technology aims at developing graphene inks and other two-dimensional crystals suitable for 2D and 3D printing, and which can be easily integrated with other materials.

The properties of graphene - strength, lightness, flexibility, high electrical conductivity and heat, scratch-resistant and anti-bacterial properties, biocompatibility – can be put into a large part of the current manufacturing processes, by multiplying their potential and functionality, with a low cost and without sacrificing performance. In particular, the applications are in the field of composite materials, where the graphene is integrated both with other polymers (polystyrene and also biodegradable plastics, as one of the recent patents IIT) in order to produce insulating materials for buildings, with metals for applications in traditional electronics (battery and flexible displays) and organic, and even with carbon fiber and kevlar to get strong and lightweight structures (useful in the automotive, aerospace as well as clothing and technical equipment).

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 December 2014 13:31

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), an effective therapy for the recovery of stroke patients

The study "Contralesional rTMS Relieves visual extinction in chronic stroke" was published in the international journal Neuropsychologia. Authors: Sara Agosta, Florian Herpic, Gabriele Miceli, Francesco Ferraro e Lorella Battelli

Trento, August 18, 2014 - Researchers at the Istituto italiano di Tecnologia in Rovereto (Trento) have applied transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to patients where stroke affected brain regions deputies to the analysis of visual attentional, with the aim of reduce the chronic hyperactivation healthy hemisphere to elicit activity in the injured and promote recovery.

The results of this study were published in the international journal Neuropsychologia with the title "Contralesional rTMS Relieves visual extinction in chronic stroke." The research work stem from the need to help stroke patients recovering cognitive functions (in particular, sustained attention) that remain in deficit and profoundly debilitating even many months after the stroke. These deficits are often not detected by classical neuropsychological handbook, but in fact they are likely the cause of the inability of many patients to achieve a full recovery.

The results of the tests on patients show that after active stimulation (but not after fictitious stimulation) there is a significant improvement of the patients. These tests have proved to be extremely sensitive to the detection of chronic deficits of patients and confirmed their rehabilitation after treatment with transcranial magnetic stimulation. The improvement peaked at 30 minutes after the end of stimulation, providing valuable suggestions on the potential for cortical plasticity still present in patients actually considered chronic and stable.

All patients were subjected to two sessions of stimulation, an active one on the healthy hemisphere and a dummy one (placebo). The choice of stimulating the region contralateral to the lesion ictal therefore derives from the need to balance the two homologous areas of the brain that after stroke got unbalanced.

Recent theories of functional architecture of the attention functions in fact suggest that homologous areas in the two brain hemispheres, perform similar functions while maintaining a state of equilibrium. This balance is likely to be lost in the event of a unilateral lesion. A hemisphere becomes hypoactive (the one with the lesion), while the healthy becomes hyperactive (to compensate for the deficit of the injured). This imbalance of functions becomes chronic, depressing and preventing recovery.

Stroke is a disease that, in the world, every year affects more than 15 million people. It is estimated that in Italy every year there are more than 200,000 new cases with an outcome of severe disability. This is usually a permanent disability from approximately 6 months after the stroke, with serious consequences on the ability to return to lead a normal life.


Last Updated on Monday, 25 August 2014 08:26

An easier way to turn plant scraps to plastics

bioplastics-300pxSave those food scraps – they could be your next grocery bag. A new way of turning vegetable waste directly into bioplastics could make such materials even more environmentally friendly.

Current bioplastics are created by processing plant material to create short molecules called monomers, which link up to create long polymer molecules that make up plastics. Although the resulting material is usually biodegradable, making it a greener alternative to regular plastic, the way it is produced has come under criticism. Making bioplastics takes multiple steps, requiring more energy, and often uses crops that could otherwise be used for food, like corn or potatoes, says Ilker Bayer at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genova, Italy.

There may now be a better way. Bayer and his colleagues were looking at the process for creating cellophane, which involves passing cellulose, the material that makes up plant cell walls, through multiple acid and alkali baths. They discovered that dissolving cellulose from cotton and hemp in trifluoroacetic acid, a common chemical, converted it directly from its naturally crystalline form to an amorphous form suitable for moulding into plastic without the need for any further processing.

Parsley plastic

Next they tried the process on vegetable waste products, including rice hulls, cocoa pod husks (see image, above right) and spinach and parsley stems from an Italian company that powders vegetables for use in vegetable drinks and coloured pasta.

"These are the parts we don't want to eat," says Bayer. They could all be easily converted into useful bioplastics, with different properties based on the starting material: rubbery for spinach, but firmer for rice hulls.

The new materials have a different combination of stiffness and stretchiness compared to both existing bioplastics and traditional plastics. They can also inherit the properties of the original plant, meaning parsley plastic could have antioxidant properties, or cinnamon plastic could be antibacterial.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 July 2014 15:50

The winner of "Mettici la faccia" contest: Alessio Vierti, 19 years old and a passion for drawing and computer science.

The drawing contest "Mettici la faccia" launched by IIT in January 2014 has a winner: Alessio Vierti, 19 years old, a student at "Enrico Fermi" High School in Genoa. Alessio made the drawing of the face of the humanoid robot Coman. The face is round and coloured in blue and orange in order to "transmit humans a sense of confidence”. The drawing convinced the international group of scientists who are developing the robot. The prize for the student were 250 euros and a training course either in drawing or in English language after the summer.

Alessio Vierti has a passion for drawing and computer science, therefore in drawing the robot’s face he was able to combine the two. In the explanatory memorandum of his proposal Alessio wrote: "the humanoid robot CoMan is designed to be a useful resource for people in emergency situations, so I thought to give his face a look as much familiar and reassuring as possible", thus demonstrating a lot of attention to the interaction between humans and machines, which is a very important aspect in advanced robotics research. The proposed face has an ovoid shape and is blue in color, with a kind of semitransparent orange visor. The drawing will serve as a reference for scientists in the realization of the robot’s head.

 Alessio met some researchers working on the robot Coman: Darwin Caldwell, director of IIT Department of Advanced Robotics, Nikolaos Tsagarakis, IIT researcher responsible for the Coman project, Alessio Rocchi, PhD student at IIT (photo by A. Abrusci - IIT). Vierti, along with his brother and parents, had the opportunity to see the robot live, to touch it and watch it move, as well as discuss with researchers about his future university choices – has just taken his high school diploma.

"Mettici la faccia " is the competition organized by IIT with the aim of raising young people’s awareness of science and technology through an interdisciplinary approach by stimulating their skills, artistic feeling and analytical spirit when it comes to look at a real scientific object. The contest was open to high school students of the Province of Genoa. The contest web page: metticilafaccia.iit.it

Last Updated on Friday, 18 July 2014 17:02

SMARTCup Liguria 2014

Anche quest’anno si terrà la competizione tra idee imprenditoriali SMARTCup Liguria 2014. L’iniziativa sarà presentata in diversi incontri dal 21 al 29 luglio su tutto il territorio regionale, a Genova, La Spezia, Savona e Imperia.

SMARTCup Liguria 2014 è il concorso di idee imprenditoriali per stimolare la nascita di imprese innovative, organizzato da FI.L.S.E. su incarico della Regione ed in collaborazione con l’Università di Genova, il CNR, l’IIT, i Centri di Ricerca e tutti gli attori che concorrono allo sviluppo di impresa del territorio.

Le presentazioni saranno un momento utile per acquisire informazioni sullo svolgimento della competizione, mirata ad individuare e supportare nuove idee nate dalla ricerca, con la collaborazione di esperti d'impresa, investitori e professionisti partner dell'iniziativa. 

Per maggiori informazioni: www.smartcupliguria.it

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 July 2014 10:43