IUPAC-Solvay International Award for Young Chemists

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Scarabelli Leonardo

Postdoctoral researcher Leonardo Scarabelli (Paul Weiss Group) is one of five winners of the IUPAC-Solvay International Award for Young Chemists.

Dr. Scarabelli received his Ph.D. in chemistry from the Universidade de Vigo. He conducted research at CICbiomaGUNE, a research center in San Sebastian, Spain, working in the BioNanoPlasmonic Lab directed by his thesis supervisor, Prof. Luis Liz-Marzan. He is currently conducting research in the laboratory of physical chemistry professor, Dr. Paul S. Weiss.

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry and Solvay (IUPAC) presented the awards for the best Ph.D. theses in the chemical sciences, as described in 1000-word essays.

According to the IUPAC announcement, the winners, who are from five different countries, will each receive a cash prize and travel expenses to the 46th IUPAC World Chemistry Congress, 9-14 July 2017, in São Paulo, Brazil. Each winner will also be invited to present a poster at the IUPAC Congress describing his/her award-winning work and to submit a short critical review on aspects of his/her research topic, to be published in Pure and Applied Chemistry. The awards will be presented to the winners of the 2016 and 2017 competitions during the Opening Ceremony of the Congress.  
In view of the many high-quality applications, the Committee also decided to award an Honorable Mention to eight applicants including UCLA alumna Dr. Liana Hie (Ph.D. Chemistry ’16 Garg group), currently a postdoctoral researcher at Yale in Scott J. Miller’s group.
The following is Scarabelli’s award winning essay:

“Synthesis and Self-Assembly of Anisotropic Plasmonic Nanoparticles”:

My thesis focused on the development of novel nanostructured plasmonic materials based on crystalline assemblies of anisotropic noble-metal nanoparticles as optical enhancers for the surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) detection of bacterial Quorum Sensing signaling molecules. Starting from the synthesis and characterization of a variety of different building blocks, the experimental work continued with their self-assembly into ordered nanostructures with different sizes and shapes, over large areas, exploiting simple procedures and paying attention to low cost and reproducibility of the fabricated devices.

From a synthetic perspective, my research led to novel synthetic protocols for the production of gold nanorods, gold nanotriangles and silver-gold-silver bimetallic nanowires. All methods yielded nanoparticles with a narrow size-distribution and rich plasmonic activity, tunable across the whole visible, near- and (for the first time) mid-infrared regions. 

Subsequently, I fabricated gold nanorod supercrystals as an efficient platform for the ultrasensitive SERS detection of model analytes. This process was based on the evaporation induced self-assembly of the nanorods, using a PDMS mold as template.

By exploiting the complementary expertise within our laboratory and our collaborators, we characterized both building-blocks and hierarchical nanostructures, as well as their plasmonic properties, using state-of-the-art techniques, such as electron energy loss spectroscopy, cathodoluminescence, dark field single-particle spectroscopy, electron tomography and the combination of focused ion beam lithography and scanning electron microscopy.

Finally, we demonstrated the viability of our nanostructures to detect quorum-sensing molecules in living bacteria colony conditions, and we were able to monitor the development of a biofilm in real time.