Transport and diffusion
Transport and diffusion phenomena are widespread and can be found in atomic systems as well as in problems of population dynamics in ecology. Furthermore, diffusion may be the key ingredient of physical and biological relevant processes, ranging from phase separation to the functionality of biomembranes.
Networks are widespread as well: from neuron networks to understand basic mechanisms of brain to optical networks, passing from syncronization problems in coupled oscillators.
Quantum dissipative systems
Quantum dissipative systems are an active field of research: an open problem is open quantum systems and their interaction, e.g., with a thermal bath, which is generally treated as a classical object.
Material physics and applications
A special place is taken by issues concerning material physics, their applications and the development of instrumentation. Topics range from hydrogen storage in clathrates to information storage in magnetic systems, but also to the construction of nanoparticles for biomedical applications. Neutron techniques have an important role for studying and characterizing materials, while Atomic Force Microscopy allows the simple and flexible analysis of diverse systems (small particles, films and biological objects). Other materials studied at ISC are ferroelectric, anti ferroelectric and multiferroic materials, which find application in high density energy storage, electrocaloric cooling, sensors and actuators. Inelastic and dielectric spectroscopies are intended to identify those features that allow one to maximize the efficiency and those properties interesting for the final applications.
Advanced instrumentation for material characterization
Vibrational (Raman and IR) spectrosocpy, mapping and imaging, supported by multivariate statistical analysis, represent an extremely powerful method for the study and classification of complex samples. This type of characterization is used, for instance, to verify the effectiveness of the chemical functionalization procedures, to compare the effects of various labels and markers, to study the homogeneity of the samples and cell modification processes, and to perform toxicological and dosing studies for bio-imaging, diagnostics, therapeutic and drug delvery applications. In particular, the ability of Raman spectroscopy to collect information on biological samples without labeling and staining, is exploited to measure time-course molecular changes in live cells in a non-destructive way, revealing biochemical processes not attainable with other imaging methods, and to probe biosensing activity of properly functionalized substrates and devices.