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Fabio Di Fonzo

Team Leader

Research Line

Nanomaterials for Energy and Lifescience


CNST@PoliMi Milano

+39 022 3999 868
+39 02 2399 9868
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My research is devoted to the development of key enabling nano-materials for CO2 free and sustainable energy conversion systems. Main fields of application are: photovoltaics, water splitting, Li-ion and flow batteries, fuel cells, III and IV generation nuclear reactors. Basic understanding of the properties of functional nanomaterials is a focus of the research as well as upscaling of nanomanufacturing methods.  The main topics on which I focused in the 2010-2015 period can be grouped in two main activities: hierarchical quasi-1D nanostructured electrodes for PV, electrochemistry and photoelectrochemistry; high density nanocomposite as barrier layers for protection of structural materials in extreme environments (i.e. a nuclear reactor) or as water vapour and oxygen antipermeation (i.e. in organic field effect transistors). For each activity the research was funded with IIT and external funding. 

The main recent result of the activity on nanostructured hybrid materials is the demonstration of a hybrid photocathode for water splitting, competitive with its purely inorganic state of the art counterpart (paper submitted). The main result from the activity on barrier layers is the demonstration of in service improvement of the mechanical properties of a nanocrystalline ceramic coating during ion irradiation. The relevance of this results is testified by the recent admission (June 2015) to the European Energy Research Alliance – Joint Program Nuclear Materials.

The main approach followed is the gas phase self assembly for the growth of materials with controlled properties at the nanoscale. Since 2010 I optimized the Pulsed Laser Deposition technique towards this aim and developed a novel technique named Nanoparticle Jet Deposition. The first, is extremely flexible and capable of working with any kind of inorganic material (metals, complex oxides, carbides, silicides, etc.), provided a solid target is available. In fact, the process exploits a laser to vaporize the target and, by controlling the process parameters, it is possible to preserve or modify the initial stoichiometry. The latter is intended to take this exploratory phase to a more advanced stage close to applications, by developing plasma and aerosol techniques capable of realizing hierarchical nanostructures on large scale, in an economical way. Recently, I am combining this essentially physical, vacuum based, approaches with wet chemical methods, Atomic Layer Deposition, and organic semiconductors, aiming at complementing the unique transport properties and high surface area of the hierarchical quasi-1D nanostructures, developed so far, with the wide range of functionalities possible with conformal organic and inorganic semiconductors overlayers.


2012 - to present

Team Leader at Center for Nano Science and Technology of IIT@PoliMI>

Lab manager of the Plasma Laser Deposition Laboratory and Leader of the Nano2Energy (Nanomaterials and Nanomanufacturing for Energy and Environment) Group. Principal Investigator in Research Lines:

a) Hybrid Nano Materials for electrochemical and photoelectrochemical Energy Conversion and Storage (funding from FP7-FET, MIUR-FESR, ENI, Bluethink-Ferrero, CARIPLO);

b) Barrier Layers for Extreme Environments (funding from ENEA, EUROFUSION, CIRTEN, Siderval, Technoprobe)

2010 - 2012

Senior Post Doc at Center for Nano Science and Technology  of IIT@PoliMI

Lab manager of the Plasma Laser Deposition Laboratory

Research Focus: Nano-Engineered Interfaces for Advanced Energy Devices

2006 - 2009

Post Doctoral Research Scientist at the “Micro and Nano-Structured Materials

Laboratory” (C.E. Bottani’s group), Energy Department, Politecnico di Milano, Italy.

Research Focus: inorganic and hybrid nanostructured materials for energy and environmental applications. Also worked on nano-biomaterials. Main research projects:

“Novel nanostructured oxides and architectures for solar energy harvesting”

“Nano-engineered hybrid metal-polymer materials for Direct Methanol Fuel Cells”


Ph.D. summa cum laude in Radiation Science and Technology, Nuclear Engineering Department,  Politecnico Milano, Italy. 

Thesis title: “Design and optimization of a novel apparatus for Pulsed Laser Deposition of nanostructured materials.” Advisor Prof. C.E. Bottani

Research topic: Basic research on nanostructured metallic and oxide materials synthesized by Pulsed Laser Deposition.


Laurea in Mechanical Engineering, 100/100. Politecnico di Milano.

Thesis Title: “Development of a new metodology and software for the integrated managment of remote monitoring, energy auditing  and optimization of industrial plants”. Advisors: Prof. E. Macchi, Politecnico di Milano and G. Fraschini, Eni S.p.A., Divisione Gas&Power.

2001 - 2002

Internship at ENI S.p.A., Gas&Power Division, Milano, Italy

Topic: applied research on innovative tools for energy optimization in industrial plants.

2000 - 2001

Research assistant at for the “LGM - Laboratorio Getti Molecolari“ (P. Milani’s group), Physics Department, Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy

Research topic: Development of an Aerodynamic Focusing Apparatus for micro-manufacturing and high intensity molecular beams.

1998 - 2000

Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Research Assistant at the “High Temperature and Plasma Tecnology Lab” (J.V.R. Heberlein and S.L. Girshick), University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA

Thesis Title: “High Definition Cold Spray of Nanocrystalline Material”. Advisors: Joachim Heberlein, Ph.D. and Peter McMurry, Ph.D., Department Head

Research topic: Hypersonic Plasma Particle Deposition and Aerodynamic Focusing of nanoparticles for micro-manufacturing.


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I numeri di IIT

L’Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) è una fondazione di diritto privato - cfr. determinazione Corte dei Conti 23/2015 “IIT è una fondazione da inquadrare fra gli organismi di diritto pubblico con la scelta di un modello di organizzazione di diritto privato per rispondere all’esigenza di assicurare procedure più snelle nella selezione non solo nell’ambito nazionale dei collaboratori, scienziati e ricercatori ”.

IIT è sotto la vigilanza del Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca e del Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze ed è stato istituito con la Legge 326/2003. La Fondazione ha l'obiettivo di promuovere l'eccellenza nella ricerca di base e in quella applicata e di favorire lo sviluppo del sistema economico nazionale. La costruzione dei laboratori iniziata nel 2006 si è conclusa nel 2009.

Lo staff complessivo di IIT conta circa 1440 persone. L’area scientifica è rappresentata da circa l’85% del personale. Il 45% dei ricercatori proviene dall’estero: di questi, il 29% è costituito da stranieri provenienti da oltre 50 Paesi e il 16% da italiani rientrati. Oggi il personale scientifico è composto da circa 60 principal investigators, circa 110 ricercatori e tecnologi di staff, circa 350 post doc, circa 500 studenti di dottorato e borsisti, circa 130 tecnici. Oltre 330 posti su 1400 creati su fondi esterni. Età media 34 anni. 41% donne / 59 % uomini.

Nel 2015 IIT ha ricevuto finanziamenti pubblici per circa 96 milioni di euro (80% del budget), conseguendo fondi esterni per 22 milioni di euro (20% budget) provenienti da 18 progetti europei17 finanziamenti da istituzioni nazionali e internazionali, circa 60 progetti industriali

La produzione di IIT ad oggi vanta circa 6990 pubblicazioni, oltre 130 finanziamenti Europei e 11 ERC, più di 350 domande di brevetto attive, oltre 12 start up costituite e altrettante in fase di lancio. Dal 2009 l’attività scientifica è stata ulteriormente rafforzata con la creazione di dieci centri di ricerca nel territorio nazionale (a Torino, Milano, Trento, Parma, Roma, Pisa, Napoli, Lecce, Ferrara) e internazionale (MIT ed Harvard negli USA) che, unitamente al Laboratorio Centrale di Genova, sviluppano i programmi di ricerca del piano scientifico 2015-2017.

IIT: the numbers

Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) is a public research institute that adopts the organizational model of a private law foundation. IIT is overseen by Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca and Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze (the Italian Ministries of Education, Economy and Finance).  The Institute was set up according to Italian law 326/2003 with the objective of promoting excellence in basic and applied research andfostering Italy’s economic development. Construction of the Laboratories started in 2006 and finished in 2009.

IIT has an overall staff of about 1,440 people. The scientific staff covers about 85% of the total. Out of 45% of researchers coming from abroad 29% are foreigners coming from more than 50 countries and 16% are returned Italians. The scientific staff currently consists of approximately 60 Principal Investigators110 researchers and technologists350 post-docs and 500 PhD students and grant holders and 130 technicians. External funding has allowed the creation of more than 330 positions . The average age is 34 and the gender balance proportion  is 41% female against 59% male.

In 2015 IIT received 96 million euros in public funding (accounting for 80% of its budget) and obtained 22 million euros in external funding (accounting for 20% of its budget). External funding comes from 18 European Projects, other 17 national and international competitive projects and approximately 60 industrial projects.

So far IIT accounts for: about 6990 publications, more than 130 European grants and 11 ERC grants, more than 350 patents or patent applications12 up start-ups and as many  which are about to be launched. The Institute’s scientific activity has been further strengthened since 2009 with the establishment of 11 research nodes throughout Italy (Torino, Milano, Trento, Parma, Roma, Pisa, Napoli, Lecce, Ferrara) and abroad (MIT and Harvard University, USA), which, along with the Genoa-based Central Lab, implement the research programs included in the 2015-2017 Strategic Plan.