Scientific activities FEN

The scientific activity of the Fondazione over the years has been based on a wide collaboration existing with the framework of the Elba Project, which results from a close and broad scientific and technological cooperation between the former USSR State Committee of Science and Technology and the Italian Ministry of University and Scientific-Technological Research.

The scientific activity of the Fondazione, initiated in 1994, continue successfully as evidenced by the list of scientific publications at the Research Laboratories of the Fondazione in Genoa (Italy).

A step forward in the development of the activity has been the opening of a laboratory of the Fondazione in Moscow, at the renowned Center “Bioengineering” of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which carries out research in the field of molecular biology, site-specific mutagenesis, and theoretical modelling of protein structures.

The proper scientific equipment of the Fondazione has been enhanced by the donation of an X-Ray small angle diffractometer by the Institute of Crystallography of the Academy of Sciences.

One of the main scientific results concern the field of thin films of biomolecules, where with the discovery of an incredible thermostabilization of protein structure and function up to 150° C conditions have been created for opment of most diversified gle-electron effects at room temperature in films formed by CdS particles is a step forwards in the creation of quantum transistors.

Of particular significance, is the application to biocatalysis in cooperation with a leading pharmaceutical company (Antiobioticos).

Collaboration with several industrial research labs in the field of atomic microscopy has also brought significant results. During 1995-96, the integration of efforts in the characterization of protein thin films effected with different methods (STM, AFM, STEM, X-Ray diffraction, ellipsometry, etc.) in collaboration with the University of Tokyo and the Nagayama ERATO Protein Array Project in Japan, has given new impulse to research of technologies suitable for the production of protein crystals.

The use of thin film technologies for the preparation of elements to be coupled to biosensor transducers permits to create a wide range of interchangeable elements for various applications in medicine, environment control, electronics and agroalimentary industries.

A significant part of the activity on the scientific forefront concerns light-sensitive proteins and metalloprotein research where collaboration is being set up with several leading industries for applications in the area of photovoltaic cells (with Edison Thermoelectrics) sensor for movement (Elsag) and gas (Elsag Bailey Hartmann Braun) and with Prof. Mauk of the University of British Columbia, Canada. The studies concern site-specific mutagenesis, theoretical modelling of protein structures and properties, as well as their filmation and characterization in thin films.

The studies on expression of metalloproteins in yeasts have been conducted in Genoa and in Moscow. Other cooperations are planned with USA laboratories.

A study on diffusion, scientific impact and technology transfer of bioelectronics and nanotechnologies on the international scale and especially in Europe has been concluded at the end of 1995 for the Italian Ministry of University and Scientific and Technological Research (Ch. 2801 funding).

The scientific activity performed in the Isle of Elba in the field of bioelectronics has earned world-wide recognition and the attention of international and national mass media, as, for example the September 9, 1995, issue of “The Economist”.

Fondazione El.B.A., continuing its activity, during the last years has focussed the research on bioelectronics and biomolecular engineering, with particular attention being paid to new electronic nanodevices and new organic and biological nanomaterials, for which studies on properties and characterization have been carried out. The research activities carried out during the last years have been going on in collaboration with other important research institutions and companies.
The main scientific areas of the Fondazione El.B.A.are:


Research on metalloproteins has been conducted with the forecast of using them in bioelectronics and pharmaceuticals. Samples of cytochromes P450scc, P4502B4, P4501A2 and B5 have been supplied by partners involved in the INCO-Copernicus project.

Photosensitive proteins

The major activity of the past years in the field of photosensitive proteins has been focussed on films of bacteriorhodopsin. The effective response of 0.2 V has been observed in layers formed by means of electrosedimentation. A modified Langmuir-Blodgett technique has been developed, combined with self-assembly in electric field, to obtain a better orientation of the layer. The presence of such induced orientation has been proven by electro-optical measurements. The activity will go ahead and a collaboration with the University of Moscow is being planned.

Monoelectron and quantum devices

The activity has been focussed primarily on the formation and characetrization of ultrathin semiconducting layers produced via self-aggregation of nanoparticles formed in organic matrices. The technique permits to form layers with an average thicknes of about 0.6 nm. Films of different materials, such as CdS, PbS, CuS, ZnS, and others, have been prepared. The resistivity of a CdS film, e.g., was 108 Wcm, while a CuS layer a value of 1 Wcm has been found. A major part of such films exhibited also photoconductivity properties. The techniques applied also to the formation of semiconducting super-lattices are similar to those used in molecular beam epitaxy.
In the view of the development of new methods for the construction of nanoparticles and thin films for their applications in the field of single electron electronics, the Fondazione El.B.A. research pointed during 2000 a new method for the preparation of nanoparticles systems within polymer matrices.

Synchrotrone radiation

The most interesting result obtained while using the Elettra synchrotrone facility in Trieste during 1999 is related to phase transition in heterostructures comprising phtalocyanines. When the samples were heated up to 90o C (a melting point for fatty acids but not for phtalocyanines), X-ray diffractiogramms changed and exhibited two reflection systems, one corresponding to bilayers of fatty acid salts, the other ? to phtalocyanine molecules positioned vertically to the substrate. Further heating of the samples (melting also the phtalocyanines) resulted in horizontal orientation of phtalocyanine molecules. Such films were used as sensitive elements in sensors for benzene and hexane.During 2000 a collaboration with the ELETTRA accelerator LILIT been line was set up with the aim to define a research plan in order to realise patterns with material such conductors or semiconductors as contact elements with nanoparticles and/or groups of nanoparticeles.

Conducting polymers

It is extremely intersting to construct ultrathin films in which single individual molecules are macroscopically oriented and in which molecules with different functionalities can be incorporated within single layers. In this context, the layer-by-layer technique has been used to prepare films of polystyrenesulfonate (PSS)/polyaniline (PANI) which were further characterized using UV-visible electrochemical and conductimetric techniques. The electrochemical response and the diffusion coefficient of such films were also studied.

Nanomaterials for the Gas Sensors

In the view to obtain the synthesis of polymers conductors for the development of gas sensors, the FE research pointed a layer by layer self assembly technology founded on the possibility of a sequential adsorption of polycathions like the chlorine poly-diallildimethylammonium (PDDA) and polyanaline sulfonate (SPANI).

Photovoltaic Cells

The study and the finalization of new materials, also in the field of the project funded by the Edison Thermoelectrial S.p.A., for the tuning of photovoltaic cells, are being pursued with a research apt to synthetize a polymer derived from the poly-isotyonaftene.
The 12th July 2000 was opened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA) the Elba Foundation American Centre, with the nomination of the US Advisory Board presided by Prof. Claudio Nicolini and comprising three members of the USA Academy of Sciences: Federico Capasso (Lucent Technologies), Carl Croce (Kimmel Cancer Institute), Charles Cantor (Sequenom) and James K. Gimzewski (UCLA). Two programs, in the Nanotecnologies research, are starting in 2001 in collaboration with Americans Institutions, in particular on the dna chip and on the nanoelectronic.