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The Australian National University

Associate Professor Antonio Tricoli

PhD ETH Zurich 2010; Master Mech. Eng. ETH Zurich, 2004
ARC DECRA, WESTPAC, FERL Fellow
ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science
T: +61 2 6125 1696

Areas of expertise

  • Functional Materials 091205
  • Nanomaterials 100708
  • Ceramics 091201
  • Nanoelectronics 100705
  • Nanotechnology 1007
  • Nanofabrication, Growth And Self Assembly 100706
  • Energy Generation, Conversion And Storage Engineering 091305
  • Clinical Chemistry (Diagnostics) 110302
  • Sensor Technology (Chemical Aspects) 030107
  • Solid State Chemistry 030206

Biography

Antonio Tricoli received his master in Mechanical and Process Engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in 2004 with his thesis "Numerical calculation of the blood flow through a cerebral aneurism featuring MR-reconstructed real geometry and an elastic artery wall". Immediately after, he joined the Renewable Energy Laboratory of ETH Zurich where he worked on the renewable production of solar hydrogen by two-step water splitting cycles. He continued his studies in 2005 at the Particle Technology Laboratory (ETH Zurich) researching the synthesis and self-assembly of nanoparticle films by combustion of organometallic precursors. In 2010, he received his PhD in the field of Nanotechnology with his thesis "Gas sensitive nanostructured films by direct flame synthesis and deposition". He continued his work as research fellow and lecturer at ETH Zurich focusing on the rapid synthesis of nanoparticle and nanowire layers for dye sensitized solar cells and non-invasive medical diagnostics. In 2012, he joined the Australian National University as research fellow under the Future Engineering Research Leadership Fellowship. His current research interests are the synthesis of novel nanostructures for energy production and storage, non-invasive medical diagnostics and functional coatings, and the engineering of novel dry processes for the synthesis of functional nanocomposites.

Researcher's projects

My research focuses on several fields of nanotechnology spacing from renewable energy production to non-invasive medical diagnostics. I am looking for motivated PhD and undergraduate students willing to explore state-of-the-art materials and ready to propose their innovative solutions/idea to overcome current technological limitations. I am glad to offer research projects/thesis in the following topics and I am available to consider other directions tailored to specific research interests.


In Renewable Energy Production:

Tailored Nanostructures for Efficient Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells (DSSC): DSSC are a very promising candidate for the low cost production of renewable energy as they utilize mass-produced, wide band-gap semiconductors such as TiO2, ZnO for electron/hole separation resulting in a considerable reduction of material costs. Current DSSC solar energy conversion efficiencies, however, are considerably lower than that of standard Si-based devices. As a result, their commercial utilization will still require considerable efforts to improve their design and overall performance. In this project functional-morphological relationships of DSSC will be investigated aiming to determine an optimal assembly of the nanostructured semiconductor. 

Suggested Readings: 

  • O'REGAN, B. & GRATZEL, M. 1991. A low-cost, high-efficiency solar cell based on dye-sensitized colloidal TiO2 films. Nature, 353, 737-740.
  • WANG, Z. S., KAWAUCHI, H., KASHIMA, T. & ARAKAWA, H. 2004. Significant influence of TiO2 photoelectrode morphology on the energy conversion efficiency of N719 dye-sensitized solar cell. Coordination Chemistry Reviews, 248, 1381-1389.
  • TRICOLI, A., WALLERAND, A. S. & RIGHETTONI, M. 2012. Highly porous TiO2 films for dye sensitized solar cells. Journal of Materials Chemistry, 22, 14254-14261.

 

All-Solid-State Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells (DSSC): A major drawback of DSSC, limiting their industrial fabrication and long-term stability, is the utilization of a liquid electrolyte. Replacement of the latter by polymer electrolytes or organic hole conductors has still not been able to provide comparable solar energy conversion efficiencies. This is mainly due to their poor penetration in the nanostructured semiconductor (working electrode). In this project, the penetration of high performance polymer electrolyte or organic hole conductors will be investigated as function of the working electrode morphology and composition. The best semiconductor films will be utilized to produce all-solid-state DSSC.

Suggested Readings: 

  • O'REGAN, B. & GRATZEL, M. 1991. A low-cost, high-efficiency solar cell based on dye-sensitized colloidal TiO2 films. Nature, 353, 737-740.
  • BACH, U., LUPO, D., COMTE, P., MOSER, J. E., WEISSORTEL, F., SALBECK, J., SPREITZER, H. & GRATZEL, M. 1998. Solid-state dye-sensitized mesoporous TiO2 solar cells with high photon-to-electron conversion efficiencies. Nature, 395, 583-585.
  • TRICOLI, A., WALLERAND, A. S. & RIGHETTONI, M. 2012. Highly porous TiO2 films for dye sensitized solar cells. Journal of Materials Chemistry, 22, 14254-14261.

In Non-Invasive Medical Diagnostics:

Portable Diabetes Monitoring and Diagnostics: Breath analysis is a rapid, non-invasive diagnostics method with the potential of decreasing medical cost while providing higher living standard and service quality to the patients. Several gases, so called breath-markers, have been successfully identified and provide a growing database of detectable illnesses and metabolic states. In particular, breath-acetone is a very important analyte for the diagnostics of diabetic (type 1) patients and for the co-monitoring of diabetes. In this project, tailored nanoparticle films will be fabricated for utilization in portable breath-acetone detectors. As the human breath contains more than 1000 different compounds, optimization of the nanoparticle composition and film morphology will be necessary to offer sufficient selectivity to breath acetone. 

Suggested Readings:

  • RIGHETTONI, M. & TRICOLI, A. 2011. Toward portable breath acetone analysis for diabetes detection. Journal of Breath Research, 5, DOI: 10.1088/1752-7155/5/3/037109.
  • TRICOLI, A., GRAF, M., MAYER, F., KÜHNE, S., HIERLEMANN, A. & PRATSINIS, S. E. 2008. Micropatterning layers by flame aerosol deposition-annealing. Advanced Materials, 20, 3005-3010.
  • TRICOLI, A., RIGHETTONI, M. & TELEKI, A. 2010. Semiconductor Gas Sensors: Dry Synthesis and Application. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 49, 7632-7659.

 

Lung Cancer Diagnostics by Microgassensors: Early-stage diagnostics of cancer is a major factor greatly improving the chances of patient recovery. Standard blood analysis diagnostics methods are too expensive and laborious to allow large-scale screening which are essential for pre-symptomatic identification of such illnesses. Non-invasive diagnostics by breath analysis has the potential to enable daily self-analysis of relevant breath-markers greatly enhancing overall diagnostics capability. Several compounds present in the human breath have been recently related to lung cancer and thus their selective and quantitative detection is a major step toward large-scale screening of significant fragment of the population. In this project, novel nanocomposites will be developed aiming at a very selective identification of potential lung cancer breath-markers in complex gas mixtures such as the human breath.

Suggested Readings:

  • PENG, G., TISCH, U., ADAMS, O., HAKIM, M., SHEHADA, N., BROZA, Y. Y., BILLAN, S., ABDAH-BORTNYAK, R., KUTEN, A. & HAICK, H. 2009. Diagnosing lung cancer in exhaled breath using gold nanoparticles. Nature Nanotechnology, 4, 669-673.
  • RIGHETTONI, M. & TRICOLI, A. 2011. Toward portable breath acetone analysis for diabetes detection. Journal of Breath Research, 5, 10.1088/1752-7155/5/3/037109.
  • TRICOLI, A., GRAF, M., MAYER, F., KÜHNE, S., HIERLEMANN, A. & PRATSINIS, S. E. 2008. Micropatterning layers by flame aerosol deposition-annealing. Advanced Materials, 20, 3005-3010.
  • TRICOLI, A. & PRATSINIS, S. E. 2010. Dispersed nanoelectrode devices. Nature Nanotechnology, 5, 54-60.
  • TRICOLI, A., RIGHETTONI, M. & TELEKI, A. 2010. Semiconductor Gas Sensors: Dry Synthesis and Application. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 49, 7632-7659.

In Functional Coatings:

Rapid Self-Assembly of Anti-fogging Layers (with Dr. A. Lowe): Fogging of windows, glasses and any type of lenses is an important security concern during driving and a major issue in a number of sport activities such as snorkelling and snowboarding. Fogging is due to the formation of micro-sized light-scattering droplets. Anti-fogging functionality can be achieved on a surface by formation of a transparent super-hydrophilic layer (ca. 150-400 nm thick) that inhibits the formation of such droplets by immediately (< 1 s) wetting the surface. Nanoparticle films are a promising candidate for the formation of such anti-fogging layers as they offer a very large surface area, roughness and a tailored nanostructured surface composition (e.g. SiO2, TiO2). In this project, anti-fogging coatings will be synthesized on glass and polymer substrates aiming to optimal transparency and improved coating mechanical stability.

Suggested Readings:

  • CEBECI, F. C., WU, Z. Z., ZHAI, L., COHEN, R. E. & RUBNER, M. F. 2006. Nanoporosity-driven superhydrophilicity: A means to create multifunctional antifogging coatings. Langmuir, 22, 2856-2862.
  • TRICOLI, A., RIGHETTONI, M. & PRATSINIS, S. E. 2009. Anti-Fogging Nanofibrous SiO2 and Nanostructured SiO2-TiO2 Films Made by Rapid Flame Deposition and In Situ Annealing. Langmuir, 25, 12578-12584.
  • TRICOLI, A., GRAF, M., MAYER, F., KÜHNE, S., HIERLEMANN, A. & PRATSINIS, S. E. 2008. Micropatterning layers by flame aerosol deposition-annealing. Advanced Materials, 20, 3005-3010.

 

Scalable Fabrication of Self-Cleaning Coatings (with Dr. A. Lowe): The so-called “Lotus Effect” is the main responsible for maintaining clean the surface of leafs, flowers and stems. This is due to the very high contact angle formed with water that leads to the formation of nearly spherical droplets that easily roll-off while incorporating soluble and hydrophilic dirt from the leaf surface. The lotus effect can be mimicked by man-made super-hydrophobic coatings on any kind of surface. This can be of major advantage for keeping clean external facilities (e.g., skyscraper windows, cars, walls) and to reduce the penetration of water in any materials (e.g., sport clothes). In this project, tailored super-hydrophobic coatings will be fabricated and characterized by synthesis of novel composites made of polymer/metal-oxide nanostructures. 

Suggested Readings:

  • LI, X. Y., DU, X. & HE, J. H. 2010. Self-Cleaning Antireflective Coatings Assembled from Peculiar Mesoporous Silica Nanoparticles. Langmuir, 26, 13528-13534.
  • ZHANG, X., FUJISHIMA, A., JIN, M., EMELINE, A. V. & MURAKAMI, T. 2006. Double-Layered TiO2-SiO2 Nanostructured Films with Self-Cleaning and Antireflective Properties†. The Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 110, 25142-25148.
  • TRICOLI, A., RIGHETTONI, M., KRUMEICH, F., STARK, W. J. & PRATSINIS, S. E. 2010. Scalable flame synthesis of SiO2 nanowires: dynamics of growth. Nanotechnology, 21, 465604.
  • TRICOLI, A., GRAF, M., MAYER, F., KÜHNE, S., HIERLEMANN, A. & PRATSINIS, S. E. 2008. Micropatterning layers by flame aerosol deposition-annealing. Advanced Materials, 20, 3005-3010.

 

Tailored Nanostructured Biointerfaces for Bone Implants (with Dr. D. Nisbet): Implants are routinely used in medical surgery such as support and/or replacement for fractured bones and have very strict requirements in term of material composition and surface properties. Although most of bone implants are made of titanium, optimization of the implant surface morphology and composition is beneficial and can greatly decrease bone recovery time. In this project, nanostructured layers of biocompatible materials will be deposited on standard Ti-substrates. The effect of the morphology and composition of these nanostructured layers on the resulting bone cell growth will be investigated aiming at an optimal engineering of such biointerfaces.

Suggested Readings:

  • KWEH, S. W. K., KHOR, K. A. & CHEANG, P. 2000. Plasma-sprayed hydroxyapatite (HA) coatings with flame-spheroidized feedstock: microstructure and mechanical properties. Biomaterials, 21, 1223-1234.
  • TRICOLI, A., GRAF, M., MAYER, F., KÜHNE, S., HIERLEMANN, A. & PRATSINIS, S. E. 2008. Micropatterning layers by flame aerosol deposition-annealing. Advanced Materials, 20, 3005-3010.

In Solid-State Gas Sensors:

Submarine Detection of Hydrocarbons: Hydrocarbons are to date the most important energy carrier of our planet. Projections show that the demand for fossil energy sources will keep rapidly increasing at least for the next 40-50 years boosting the search for novel gas and oil fields. Due to the very large surface occupied by oceans and seas, submarine fields are a very promising location for the identification of new resources. Precise localization of submerged deposits can greatly reduce installation costs incentivising future investments. Submarine robots equipped with hydrocarbon detecting devices may greatly help in the search for novel gas and oil fields. In this project, novel hydrocarbon sensing materials will be developed to be integrated in state-of-the-art solid state microgassensors. The best sensors will be installed in portable units to be used with current submarine robots for pipeline inspection and ocean floor mapping.

Suggested Readings:

  • PEJCIC, B., EADINGTON, P. & ROSS, A. 2007. Environmental Monitoring of Hydrocarbons: A Chemical Sensor Perspective. Environmental Science & Technology, 41, 6333-6342.
  • TRICOLI, A., GRAF, M., MAYER, F., KÜHNE, S., HIERLEMANN, A. & PRATSINIS, S. E. 2008. Micropatterning layers by flame aerosol deposition-annealing. Advanced Materials, 20, 3005-3010.
  • TRICOLI, A., RIGHETTONI, M. & TELEKI, A. 2010. Semiconductor Gas Sensors: Dry Synthesis and Application. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 49, 7632-7659.

 

Novel Nanosemiconductor Gas Sensing Devices: Current solid-state gas sensor devices are commonly based on a porous film of semiconductor nanoparticles. This allows detection of very low concentration of several analytes down to the particles per billion ranges by simple measurement of the nanoparticle film conductivity. However, such devices suffer of very poor selectivity limiting their utilization to simple and well defined gas mixture. In this project, a novel gas sensing concept will be developed resulting in a very selective detection of numerous gasses. This approach will be further demonstrated by detection of important analyte in complex mixtures such as the human breath.

Suggested Readings:

  • TRICOLI, A. & PRATSINIS, S. E. 2010. Dispersed nanoelectrode devices. Nature Nanotechnology, 5, 54-60.
  • TRICOLI, A., RIGHETTONI, M. & TELEKI, A. 2010. Semiconductor Gas Sensors: Dry Synthesis and Application. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 49, 7632-7659.

In Nanomanufacturing:

Advanced Flame Synthesis Reactors: Nanoparticles and nanowires have demonstrated unique properties that allow fabrication of highly performing batteries, sensors, fuel and solar cells, to name a few. Simple nanostructures such as TiO2, SiO2 and carbon black nanoparticles have already become commodities and are produced on large scale by flame reactors. Such simple flame processes, however, have some limitations with respect to the feasibility of tailoring material properties and synthesis of complex nanocomposites. In this project, novel flame reactors will be developed that allow rapid fabrication of advanced nanostructured materials for energy production and storage.

Suggested Readings:

  • PRATSINIS, S. E. 1998. Flame aerosol synthesis of ceramic powders. Progress in Energy and Combustion Science, 24, 197-219.
  • KARTHIKEYAN, J., BERNDT, C. C., TIKKANEN, J., WANG, J. Y., KING, A. H. & HERMAN, H. 1997. Preparation of nanophase materials by thermal spray processing of liquid precursors. Nanostructured Materials, 9, 137-140.
  • MÄDLER, L., KAMMLER, H. K., MUELLER, R. & PRATSINIS, S. E. 2002. Controlled synthesis of nanostructured particles by flame spray pyrolysis. Journal of Aerosol Science, 33, 369-389.
  • TRICOLI, A. & ELMØE, T. D. 2012. Flame spray pyrolysis synthesis and aerosol deposition of nanoparticle films. AIChE Journal, 10.1002/aic.13739.

 

Gas-Phase Synthesis of Nanocoatings: Combining semi-bulk properties of tailored nanostructures with the surface properties of other components (e.g. SiO2-coated TiO2 nanoparticles) is a very powerful tool to advance beyond the current limitations of state-of-the-art materials. Such coatings, often few nanometers thick, are commonly obtained by wet-processing of flame made nanostructures (e.g. nanoparticles). Such multi step approaches have some limitations with respect to the feasibility of producing gas-tight layers and their utilization is quite time consuming. In this project, novel type of process will be developed to allow rapid coating of nanostructures in the gas phase.

Suggested Readings:

  • MÄDLER, L., KAMMLER, H. K., MUELLER, R. & PRATSINIS, S. E. 2002. Controlled synthesis of nanostructured particles by flame spray pyrolysis. Journal of Aerosol Science, 33, 369-389.
  • TELEKI, A., AKHTAR, M. K. & PRATSINIS, S. E. 2008. The quality of SiO2-coatings on flame-made TiO2-based nanoparticles. Journal of Materials Chemistry, 18, 3547-3555.
  • TELEKI, A., PRATSINIS, S. E., WEGNER, K., JOSSEN, R. & KRUMEICH, F. 2005. Flame-coating of titania particles with silica. Journal of Materials Research, 20, 1336-1347

Publications

Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  18 August 2018 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers