The Laboratory for Marine Nanotechnology and Biotechnology is focused on science and technology at the interface between advanced materials and the environment. Fundamental and applied interdisciplinary research encompasses a number of areas, including natural materials derived from the marine environment, the behaviour and fate of materials introduced to marine waters as a result of anthropogenic activity, and the development of new materials and technologies for addressing contemporary issues in marine science.
Research on natural materials is focused towards gaining a deeper insight into the fundamental biological and physiological mechanisms of biomineralisation processes in marine organisms and understanding how biomolecules such as proteins and enzymes can control and tailor the growth of such minerals to give materials with enhanced mechanical properties. Theoretical and experimental studies are also carried out to determine the effect of abiotic factors, including temperature, alkalinity and anthropogenic pollution, on biomineralization and the adaptation of marine organisms to stress through modulation of enzymatic activities and heat shock proteins.
Engineered nanoscale materials, as a by-product of human activity, are increasingly finding their way into the environment. The Laboratory conducts research on determining the physico-chemical properties of metal, metal oxide and polymer nanomaterials in estuarine and marine waters and their behaviour in the water column, sediment and biota. An important focus of our work is in seeking to understand the interaction of nanomaterials with flora and fauna, ranging from phytoplankton to sea urchins, in these environmental compartments and how such materials modulate key cellular processes.
As another significant anthropogenic material reaching marine waters, radionuclides originating from human activity are also monitored in the Adriatic Sea, with research directed towards tracking long term trends and impacts that anthropogenic radioactivity have on biota, and the overall radio-ecological status of the marine environment.
The Laboratory also conducts applied research on the development of sensors for marine toxins based on the opto-electronic properties of tailored nanomaterials, and on nano-structured active films against biofouling. The Laboratory is further engaged in developing new instruments and technology platforms for the detection and characterisation of nanomaterials in complex matrices, including marine and estuarine waters, sediment and in living organisms, as an enabling component for risk assessment and key input for policy makers in this area.
More broadly, the Laboratory is dedicated to conducting internationally competitive research, providing a stimulating environment for the training of young scientists, and fostering and strengthening collaborations with scientists both nationally and internationally.