In collaboration with the Cranston and MacLachlan labs, which are focused on chemistry and materials engineering of nanocellulose, Dr. Vignolini hopes to define new strategies to reproduce and enhance the optical properties observed in the natural system exploiting natural biopolymers. Together, the researchers aim to produce new bio-based nanoparticles/nanofibres with novel surface chemistry and study their self-assembly. They want to develop new water-based fabrication routes towards fully light-absorbing or reflecting (i.e. the blackest black and the whitest white) materials as well as enhanced coloured surfaces and multi-domain/multi-coloured films that mimic, for example, opals. These materials may find widespread application in decorative coatings, sensors, optoelectronics, energy production, security paper/packaging, and textiles, to name just a few.
Dr. Silvia Vignolini studied Physics at the University of Florence, Italy. In 2009, she was awarded a PhD in Solid State Physics at the European Laboratory for non-Linear Spectroscopy and the Physics Department at the University of Florence. In 2010, she moved to Cambridge as a post-doctoral research associate working in the Cavendish Laboratory and the Plant Science Department. In 2013, she started her independent research becoming a BBSRC David Philip Fellow and shortly after she was appointed as Lecturer in the Chemistry Department in Cambridge. Dr. Vignolini is currently a Reader in Chemistry and Bio-inspired materials. Her research interest lies at the interface of chemistry, soft-matter physics, optics, and biology. In particular, her research focuses on the study of how natural materials (such as cellulose) are assembled into complex architectures within living organisms and how these architectures define the organism`s optical appearance. Her approach to fabricate novel optical materials is unique in the field of bio-mimetic and photonics. Grounded on her multidisciplinary background, Dr. Vignolini uses optics to understand the assembly of naturally occurring photonic structures and she applies those concepts to fabricate novel bio-inspired sustainable materials.