Alessandro Ianiro
Adolphe Merkle Institute, University of Fribourg


Liquid-liquid phase separation during amphiphilic self-assembly


The self-assembly of amphiphilic molecules in solution is of key importance in both natural and synthetic systems. Extensive efforts have been devoted to understanding the mechanisms underlying self-assembly, yet certain aspects still remain elusive. Using a combination of theoretical modelling and liquid-phase electron microscopy (LP-TEM), we discovered a previously unknown self-association pathway that leads to the formation of block copolymer vesicles via a liquid-phase precursor. This precursor is similar under many aspects to biological coacervates. The theoretical model provides a mechanistic view, while time-resolved LP-TEM single-particle analysis opens a window on the complexity and the pathway dependence of the process. These findings have important technological and biological implications, which will be discussed during the talk.


Alessandro obtained his B. Sc. in Chemistry at the University of Bologna, Italy, in 2014. Next, he joined the NanoBio Interface Lab at the same university as a post-graduate fellow. In October 2015 he moved to the Netherlands to join the laboratory of physical chemistry at Eindhoven University of Technology as a PhD student in the Physical chemistry group, where he received the Ph.D. in 2019. Subsequently, he moved to Adolphe Merkle Institute of University of Fribourg as a postdoc researcher in the Biophysics group, where he works in close collaboration with the Polymer Chemistry and Materials group. Since 2022 he serves as Group Leader in Biophysics. While working at AMI, he was awarded a Marie Curie Fellowship and an EIC Pathfinder Open. He is interested in studying self-association phenomena at the nanoscale, non-classical crystallization mechanisms, single-molecule characterization via nanopore technologies and the development of bioinspired electric devices.