SMAC - Supercritical fluid and MAterials Chemistry


The group represents the synergy of expertise in chemical engineering of supercritical fluid processes and in surface and solid state chemistry of materials.
Science and technologies involving the use of supercritical fluids and the synthesis, the functionalization and the physico-chemical characterization of materials are aimed to develop new processes and new systems with applications in the pharmaceutical and biomedical field, adsorption, separation and catalysis.

Main research Topics

In the last decade, the SMAC activity has been focused in particular on the development of drug delivery systems deriving from eco-sustainable processes, with the aim of limiting the environmental impact and toxicity of the substances used, both in view of the production and the use of materials and final devices.
Part of the activity is devoted to the synthesis of nanoporous or nanostructured inorganic-organic carriers, obtained by green processes.
The modification of carriers with active principle ingredients is obtained through water-based or supercritical CO2-based (ScCO2) processes.
Concerning supercritical fluids, supercritical carbon dioxide is a good candidate to substitute organic solvents in the production of pharmaceutical devices thanks to its low toxicity and its tunable solvent power, which can be easily modified through small variations in temperature and pressure. The set-up of these chemical physical supercritical processes requires the knowledge of the thermodynamic properties of the involved phases. For this reason both experimental data at supercritical conditions and appropriate thermodynamic models for the estimation of these properties are needed
More recently, the group has opened a new research activity dedicated to the study of antibacterial inorganic nanomaterials characterized by low toxicity, of particular interest in the biomedical field. This research line involves the strong collaboration with prof. Francesca Bosco (MuSyChEn).
The objectives of the research activities are:

  • knowledge of the thermodynamic properties, mainly solubility, in supercritical fluids to provide data useful to design the supercritical processes as well as developing thermodynamic models to predict the properties of the supercritical fluids and phase equilibria of high-pressure systems;
  • developing innovative supercritical processes to obtain pharmaceutical devices for controlled drug release
  • development of antimicrobial systems for applications in wound healing.

Main Research activities

  • Inorganic and hybrid (organic-inorganic) nanoporous and nanostructured materials.
  • Oxide nanoparticles.
  • Physico-chemical characterization of inorganic and hybrid (organic-inorganic) materials with the following techniques:
  • X-ray diffraction (phase identification, semiquantitative determination of the phases present, crystallite size determination). X-ray diffraction in situ (temperature 25-1200 ° C) in air and in a controlled atmosphere;
  • TG and DSC thermal analysis of inorganic and organic materials in air and in controlled atmosphere;
  • volumetric measurements of gas adsorption (nitrogen and argon) for the determination of the specific surface, porous volume and pore size distribution in nanoporous materials;
  • infrared spectroscopy for the characterization of bulk materials and surface properties (adsorption of probe molecules).
  • Impregnation of materials with active principle ingredients of pharmaceutical interest with supercritical CO2, using semi-continuous equipment (up to 120 ° C and 689 bar / 10000 psi).
  • Study of drug release for oral and topical administration through UV / VIS spectrophotometer, combined with Erweka DT dissolver flow cells and Frantz cell.
  • Supercritical extraction processes of contaminants or functional compounds from solid matrices.
  • Experimental study of phase equilibria and thermodynamic modeling.
  • Aerogels obtained by supercritical drying with semi-continuous equipment (120 °C and 689 bar / 10000 psi).

Main partnerships

  • Prof. Maria Concetta Bruzzoniti, University of Torino (materials for analytical processes/techniques and environmental protection)
  • Prof. Piero Ugliengo, University of Torino (materials and interfaces for drug delivery)
  • Prof. Elisabetta Rombi, University of Cagliari (materials for catalysis and CO2 capture)
  • Prof. Roberta Cavalli, University of Torino (carriers and processes for topical drug-delivery)
  • Prof. Silvia Rossi, University of Pavia (in-vivo tests of materials and devices for wound healing)
  • Prof. Flaviano Testa, University of Calabria (materials and processes for CO2 capture)
  • Prof. Carlos A. García-González, University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain) (aerogels for biomedical applications)
  • Prof. Eric Maire, INSA de Lyon (France) (micro-tomography)
  • Prof. Renaud Rinaldi, INSA de Lyon (France) (architectured polymers for transportation)
  • Prof. Solène Tadier, INSA de Lyon (France) (bioceramics for bone replacement)
  • COST Action “AERoGELS” CA18125: Advanced Engineering and Research of aeroGels for Environment and Life Sciences
  • Prof. Urszula Stachewicz, AGH University of Krakow (Poland) (composite materials obtained by electrospinning)

Projects and publications

Reference laboratories

Researchers (RTDA) PhD, Post-docs and Grant researchers