Transition metal nanoclusters (i.e., self-assembled particles less than 10-100 nm in diameter) have gained increasing attention in science and application in the last several years, due to the observation of properties that are unique to the nanoscale domain. A considerable body of knowledge has been accumulated on these materials showing that they have many fascinating potential uses, including quantum dots, quantum computers and devices, data storage devices, nanoscale ferromagnets, opto-electronic devices, chemical sensors, heterogeneous catalysts, etc. Both mono-dispersed particles and nanoparticle self-assemblies have been investigated, and it has been demonstrated that the properties of nanoparticles organized in super-lattices differ from those of isolated nanoparticles, both being peculiarly different from those of bulk and single-molecular species.
However, optimization or even determination of the most interesting properties, in view of the applications, has been usually based on the empirical method of trial and error since knowledge (hence, control) on the mechanism of self-organization and structure-property relationships is incomplete or lacking altogether.
Recently there have been advances in preparative methods and characterization techniques which are particularly apt to elucidate growth mechanisms. Furthermore, on the theoretical side modern developments in hardware and software have recently permitted molecular dynamics simulations of the growth of metal nanoparticles in the gas phase under realistic conditions.
These developments have opened the way to a detailed comparison between theoretical simulations and experiments on a broad class of phenomena which are of paramount technological as well as scientific importance, namely, the growth process of nanoparticles in condensed phase and their organization in 1D-3D structures.
The focus of IPCF during 2003 has been to promote and coordinate an ambitious scientific project, involving eight research units located in eleven research centers of four different European countries, aimed at clarifying (1) the mechanisms of nucleation and growth of bare and coated transition and noble metal nanoclusters, (2) the supra-organization of these nanoparticles in 1D, 2D and 3D super-structures, (3) the structure-properties relationships, with a full exploitation of the peculiar properties of these systems as the ultimate goal.
This project, titled "Growth and Supra-Organization of Transition and Noble Metal Nanoclusters (GSOMEN)" and coordinated by Dott. Alessandro Fortunelli (First Researcher at IPCF), has been successfully presented as a STRP (Specific Targeted Research Project) within the Sixth Framework Programme of the European Community, and has started operating in 2004.