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Professor Nunzio Motta

Science and Engineering Faculty,
Chemistry, Physics, Mechanical Engineering,
Nanotechnology and Molecular Science


Professor Nunzio Motta
Science and Engineering Faculty,
Chemistry, Physics, Mechanical Engineering,
Nanotechnology and Molecular Science
Discipline *
Condensed Matter Physics, Nanotechnology, Materials Engineering
+61 7 3138 5104
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PhD (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa)

Professional memberships
and associations

Epitaxy, Growth, Nanotechnology, Graphene and Nanotubes, Organic Photovoltaics, Quantum Dots, Semiconductors, Solar Cells, Scanning Tunneling Microscopy, Ultra High Vacuum technology

* Field of Research code, Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC), 2008


Broad area of research: Material Science Prof. Motta was the first scientist in Italy to achieve atomic resolution by Scanning Tunneling Microscopy in 1991. As a physicist he is interested in searching answers to fundamental questions of the nature, especially in the area of material science and nanotechnology. His main research focus is to improve our environment by using nanotechnology to develop new solar cells and gas sensors. Main areas of research

  • Nanotechnology
  • Semiconductors
  • Nanotubes
  • Gas Sensors
  • Solar cells
  • Supercapacitors
  • Nanotechnology aims at exploiting the remarkable size effects that arise when materials are reduced to nanoscale dimensions. Exploiting such effects will lead to new applications in different areas of human endeavor. Professor Nunzio Motta is an expert in the use of Scanning Tunneling Microscopy, Atomic Force Microscopy and Focused Ion Beam. These instruments allow the visualization and manipulation of objects on surfaces at the atomic and molecular level. His main focus is on achieving perfect ordering in the growth of nanostructures through nanopatterning. The long-term goal of his research is to control the self-assembly of nanostructures by surface modification and patterning. This can be achieved in various ways: self-organization of surface structures, STM and Focused Ion Beam patterning. The new Ultra High Vacuum Scanning Probe Microscopy facility, recently funded by the ARC and part of the linked laboratory of the Australian Microscopy and Microanalysis Research Facility (AMMRF) at QUT is the core tool to study the surface of materials at the atomic level. This machine is complemented by a Focused Ion Beam (FIB) which is is actively used to produce nanopatterned substrates in several research project.

Research projects 

  • Hybrid 2D materials synthesis for nanoelectronics and photovoltaics applications. While graphene has attracted a great deal of research due its remarkable electronic and mechanical properties, the difficulty of inducing an appreciable bandgap limits its use in nanoelectronic applications, particularly as a logic device. Graphene based heterostructures, combining graphene with other two dimensional materials, have been recently proposed in order to overcome this limitation. Particlarly attractive are insulating hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) or semiconductingtransition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) such as molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) and tungsten diselenide (WSe2). The hybridisation of graphene with other two dimensional materials opens up the possibility of engineering the band gap and realising synthetic two-dimensional alloys and topological insulators. PhD projects available in this area.
  • Graphene synthesis on SiC for next-generation electronics and gas sensing. The extraordinary properties of graphene, a single sheet of carbon atoms (e.g. monodimensional structure, high conductivity, low-noise characteristic) are expected to be exploited in the next generation of electronic devices and gas sensors. This applications require a perfect control of the growth of graphene layers, and an optimum integration with the processes and materials used in the semiconductor industry. This project aims at studying the growth of Graphene obtained by heating crystalline SiC at high temperature (1200-1350 C) in Ultra High Vacuum. The material is investigated by Scanning Probe Microscopy/Spectroscopy (STM/STS) and X-ray Photoemission Spectroscopy (XPS), with the aim of understanding the growth mechanism, in order to obtain a seamless single graphene sheet suitable for electronic and sensing applications. Patterning of the substrate by He+ Focused Ion Beam will provide a way to create and test new devices. Exposure of graphene sensors to controlled amount of gas molecules in Ultra High Vacuum will provide useful information on the variation of the electronic properties as a function of gas adsorption. Collaborations: Griffith University (QLD) Roma Tor Vergata, Roma La Sapienza (Italy). References:  Nanotechnology, 2016. 27(18): p. 185601. Carbon, 2016. 98: p. 307-312. Carbon, 2015. 91(0): p. 378-385. Carbon, 2014. 68: p. 330-336. Carbon, 2014. 68: p. 563-572. Journal of Applied Physics, 2014. 115(20): p. 203501.      PhD projects available in this area.
  • Carbon Based Supercapacitors   Electrochemical capacitors (ECs) have been known by different names such as “ultracapacitors” or “power capacitors” but the most recognized name today is “supercapacitors”. The term supercapacitor was introduced by NEC because it was the first company to commercialize a device with the name SuperCapacitorTM in 1971. Supercapacitors can provide a higher power density but a smaller energy density compared to traditional chemical batteries, which make them very attractive for applications where instantaneous power is required. We are working at high performance supercapacitors by using all carbon electrodes, with volume energy comparable to Li-ion batteries, and power densities better than laser-scribed-graphene supercapacitors. The supercapacitor electrodes are made by solution processing and filtering electrochemically-exfoliated graphene sheets mixed with clusters of spontaneously entangled multiwall carbon nanotubes.  References:  Nanotechnology, 2016. 27(16): p. 165402, Journal of Power Sources, 2015. 274: p. 823-830.  Nanotechnology, 2014. 25(43): p. 435405.  PhD projects available in this area.
  • Solar Powered Nano-Sensors This project aims to the production of a new class of sensors for data collection in remote areas, by using integrated nanomaterials powered by state of the art solar cells. The sensors will be devoted to the detection of gases in three main backgrounds: ammonia (NH3) from cattle manure; nitrous oxide (N2O) from fertilizers; nitrogen dioxide from pollution or gas emissions from engines. The technology advance rendered by this project will enable improved monitoring of the environment in remote areas, especially in mining and agricultural contexts, leading to industrial and ecological benefits. We are growing new metal oxide and 2D nanostructures to be used in the sensing devices, because of their sensor performance and low power consumptions. The power to these cells be provided by integrated dye-sensitised solar cells, and each gas sensor station is connected to a network with the capability to send data over wireless links to provide remote monitoring systems. Project funded by the Queensland Government through the Smart Futures National and International Research Alliances Program. Collaborations: CQU, University of Roma Tor Vergata (Italy), University of Brescia, Dyesol Ref: Beilstein J. Nanotechnol. 2012, 3, 368–377. (2012), Beilstein Journal of Nanotechnology,  5: p. 1073-1081. (2014)
  • New nanomaterials for Solar cells We are exploring the development of low cost alternative solar cells by using new nanomaterials: conductive polymers,  carbon nanotubes, graphene,  metal nanoparticles, ternary compounds and perovskites. The understanding and the optimization of the electronic and physical interactions between polymeric donors and acceptor material is a crucial step towards higher efficiency.  Collaborations:  University of Roma Tor Vergata (Italy), INRS – Université du Quebec (Canada). References: The Journal of Physical Chemistry Part C, 115, 6324,  (2011), Solar Energy, 106 p. 23-37 (2014). PhD projects available in this area
  • Semiconductor quantum dots The race to increase the number of active components in a chip is leading the electronic industry to face the limits of top-down approach. Nanotechnology is creating the basis for a bottom-up approach, starting from atoms as building blocks of nanostructures. The self assembly of three-dimensional islands is one of the most promising paths towards the fabrication of artificial atoms, or quantum dots (QDs), which are the promise for the future of memories and transistors. We are studying the formation Ge dots occurring during layer by layer growth on nanopatterned Si substrates. We have been able to obtain a good control of the island by tuning the growth rate and the substrate temperature and using a combination of self-organization and Focused Ion Beam patterning (FIB). More recently growths on Si nanoindented substrates have been realized. Collaborations: University of Roma Tor Vergata (Italy), ANU (Canberra). Reference: Nanotechnol. Lett. 3, 841-849 (2011)  


  • Encapsulating Quantum Dots into ZnO Nanorods for Advanced Photonics and Laser Applications Chief Investigators: N.Motta. Funding source: AOARD. Funding US$ 100,000. Year 2014-2016 (2 years).
  • Development of gas selective membranes for intra-ruminal capsules. Chief Investigators: J.Bell, N.Motta, K.Kalantar-Zadeh. Funding Source: DAFF – Carbon Farming Futures. Funding: $30,000. Years: 2012-2015 (3 years).
  • A novel multiscale modelling technique to explore mechanical deformation of nanowires in high-performance devices. Chief Investigators: Y.T.Gu, N.Motta, J.M.Bell Funding source:ARC Discovery Funding $360,000 Year 2014-2016 (3 years)  
  • National in-­situ transmission electron microscopic facilities Chief Investigators J Zou, X Liao, P Munroe, J Drennan, H Zhao, C Yu, J D da Costa, P Meredith, C Yan, N Motta, S Ringer, L Ye, G Wang, R Zheng, Y Wang, M Hoffman, M Ferry, M Stevens-Kalceff, G Conibeer Funding Source ARC LIEF Funding $ 440,000 Year 2012  
  • An integrated kinetic measurement system enabling efficient solar energy conversion Chief Investigators L.Wang, N. Motta, H. Zhao, G. M Lu, Dr B.J. Seger, V. Rudolph, S. C Smith, J. M. Bell Funding Source ARC LIEF Funding $ 150,000 Year 2011  
  • Ultra High Resolution and Analitical Scanning electron Microscopy facility Chief Investigators J.Drennan, A.Whittaker, J.Zou, C.Bronwen, , B.Scott, L. Nothdurf, G.Webb, N.Motta, E.Waclawik, I.Blakey Funding Source ARC LIEF Funding $ 720,000 Year 2011
  •   Ultra High Vacuum Scanning Probe Microscope Facility Chief Investigators N. Motta, J. Bell, J. Shapter, E. Quinton, J. Drennan, E. Waclawik, L. Wang, A. Oloyede, T. Bostrom, M. De Crescenzi, E. Gray Funding Source ARC LIEF Funding $ 800,000 Year 2010  
  • Solar powered nano-sensors for data acquisition and surveying in remote areas Chief Investigators N.Motta, J.M. Bell, E. Waclawik, T Tesfamichael, M. Bhagavathi, G. Faglia, M. Ferroni, M. De Crescenzi, A. Di Carlo, A.Sgarlata, M.Scarselli, D.Midmore, A.Thein. S.Tulloch Funding source Queensland Smart Futures NIRAP funds Funding $1,452,877 Year 2009-2012 (3 years)  
  • Italian-Australian School/Workshop NanoE3 Chief Investigators N.Motta, J.M.Bell, F.Rosei Funding  Source DEST+ others Funding $70,000 Year 2007  
  • Microscopic study of a polymer-nanotube mixture for organic photovoltaics applications Chief Investigators N.Motta, J.M. Bell, E. Waclawik, T Tesfamichael, F.Rosei Funding source US AirForce AOARD Funding $34,773 Year 2006    
  • Modifying Structure and Properties of Carbon Nanotubes for Device Applications Chief Investigators J.M. Bell, E. Waclawik, B. Wei, H. Zhou, N. Motta Funding Source ARC International Linkage Funding $ 116,480 Year 2005/2008 (3 years)
  • Growth of semiconductors quantum dots on nanopatterned substrates Chief Investigators N. Motta, M. De Seta, G. Capellini M. Fanfoni, F. Patella Funding source Ministry of Research and Education Italy COFIN 2002023125 Funding 294,000 Euro Year 2002/2004 (2 years)    
  • Fabrication organisation and use of memories obtained by Focused Ion Beam. Chief Investigators N. Motta, A. Balzarotti, A. Sgarlata + 6 European partners Funding source European Community IST-2000 Funding 250,000 Euro Year 2001/2004 (3 years)
  • VT-STM Laboratory Chief Investigators N. Motta, A.Balzarotti, A.Sgarlata, M.Fanfoni, F.Patella Funding Source INFM Italy – Large Instruments Funding Funding 380,000 Euro Year 1998    
  • Heterostructures of Silicides on Silicon Chief Investigators M.de Crescenzi, N.Motta, and 11 European Partners Source of Funding EC Network Funding 400,000 Euro Year 1993

Career History

  • 2010-Present:   Professor, Principal research fellow, Queensland University of Technology, Science and Engineering Faculty, School of Chemistry Physics and Mechanical Engineering.
  • 2004-2009:        Adjunct Associate Professor, Queensland University of Technology, School of Engineering Systems  
  • 2001-2004:        Associate Professor, Università Roma TRE, Department of Physics  
  • 1984-2001:         Assistant professor, Università di Roma Tor Vergata, Department of Physics
This information has been contributed by Professor Nunzio Motta.


Teaching areas

  • Physics
  • Atomic and molecular physics
  • Solid State Physics
  • Nanotechnology
  • Computer controlled instrumentation


  • PVB 203 Experimental Physics (Sem 1)
  • PVB 301 Materials and Thermal Physics (Sem 1)
  • PVB 302 Classical and Quantum Physics (Sem 1)
  • ENN 531 Advanced Materials and Engineering Applications (Sem 1)
  • PVB 304 Physics Research (Sem 2)
This information has been contributed by Professor Nunzio Motta.


Interests and community service

  • Associate editor for: Beilstein Journal of Nanotechnllogy, Advanced Davice Materials, Nanomaterials and Nanotechnology.
  • Referee for the International reviews: Applied Physics Letters, Surface Science, Applied Surface Science, Nanotechnology IOP, J Phys D, ACS-Nano, Nano letters.
  • Referee for French PhD theses (INSA-Lyon, Universitè J.Fourier-Grenoble)
  • Assessor for research proposals: ARC ; CEA (france); NSERC (Canada); Qatar foundation.
This information has been contributed by Professor Nunzio Motta.


For more publications by this staff member, visit QUT ePrints, the University's research repository.

Research projects

Grants and projects (Category 1: Australian Competitive Grants only)

Establishing advanced networks for air quality sensing and analyses
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
Start year
A novel multiscale modelling technique to explore mechanical deformation of nanowires in high-performance devices
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
Start year
Nanowire; Multiscale modelling; Surface effect
Development of gas selective membranes (for intra-ruminal capsules)
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
Start year