CNISM presentation

The National Interuniversity Consortium for the Physical Sciences of Matter (Consorzio Nazionale Interuniversitario per le Scienze Fisiche della Materia, CNISM) started its activity on 3 February 2005. It is a non-profit organization comprising 39 Italian Universities and approximately 1300 scientists working in the field of condensed matter physics.

CNISM attained Legal Status on 26 January 2006 by means of a Decree of the Ministry of Education, University and Research of the Italian Government published on the Gazzetta Ufficiale of the Italian Republic on 07/02/2006 (general series n. 31).

CNISM’s competence and expertise is in the field of “condensed matter physics”, i.e. the area of physics aimed to the understanding of the properties of matter that surround us, not only for the satisfaction of natural human curiosity but above all to learn how to control such properties for the realization of materials and devices that are useful to human life. It is for this reason that condensed matter physics, albeit a ‘fundamental’ science, is at the base of all the most advanced technological applications that characterize our daily life: the function of the brain, the study of bio-molecules and the design of new pharmaceuticals, the so called “quantum computers”, the integration of electronic devices in living organisms, magnetism and its many applications, the present and future of photovoltaic technologies, lasers, opto-electronics, photonics and their applications to telecommunications, superconductivity that celebrated its centenary in 2011 and many other topics.

CNISM promotes and coordinates research, scientific activities and related technologies in the field of condensed matter physics among the Universities of the Consortium and with the aim of better developing the activities that each University supports in condensed matter. CNISM also develops activities of education and formation of young students and researchers in the most advanced areas of international research and at the interface with other disciplines, trying to support their entrance in the world of research and professional development. Moreover, CNISM promotes the development of new instrumentation and infrastructure for research and advanced applications in areas that span from condensed matter to those related to information technology and life sciences. CNISM supports activities aimed at collaborations with other research institutions at national and international level.

CNISM develops and performs inter-disciplinary research in condensed matter and its technological application via the scientific network based on its units of operation and its regional laboratories. In the table below, we report in a greatly schematic way the areas of activity of CNISM.




Brief Description

Areas of application

Optics and Photonics


Study and application of integrated optical devices

Optical elaboration of information and ultra-fast communications.


Quantum Optics and Coherent Phenomena


Study and application of quantum and nonlinear properties of matter for the generation and control of light.

Development of new laser sources; ultra-short pulses; X-ray lasers.


Quantum Information

Study and development of devices and processes based on the quantum properties of radiation

New systems for the elaboration of data and for communication. Fundamental laws of quantum phenomena of transmission and elaboration of information and in particular of images.


High-resolution Spectroscopy

Study of fundamental energy excitations in materials.

Characterization of ultra-fast phenomena, manipulation and characterization of nanoscopic systems and systems under extreme conditions of temperature and pressure. Study of optical properties of media.


Plasmas and Atomic and Molecular Systems

Creation, characterization application of plasmas.

Development o systems for the production of energy via nuclear fusion. High-energy lasers for extreme applications (relativistic matter and nuclear fusion). Generation and control of plasmas for medical therapies, technological treatment of materials, stratospheric aspects of telecommunications and meteorology.


Development of optical techniques and innovative optical instruments.

Innovative and unconventional applications of optical technologies.

Non-invasive diagnostic for the preservation of cultural heritage, laser etching of optoelectronic circuits, ultra-accurate sensors for gases, medical diagnostic, environmental diagnostic. Instrumentation for astrophysics, for earth observation and applications in science and industry.



Study and optical manipulation of biological systems.

Optical manipulation of cells and sub-cellular components. Optical tweezers.

Fluids, Soft Matter and Biological Matter.

Simple molecular systems.

Study and application of molecular systems formed by a limited number of atoms.

Classical and quantum aspects in molecular systems: super-fluidity, collective motion, thermodynamical, structural and chemical properties of solid, liquid and gaseous states in extreme conditions. Collective phenomena in aqueous solutions. Properties of fluids confined in inorganic and biological nano-structures. Non-conventional glass and amorphous systems.


Soft Matter.

Study and application of matter states with macroscopic properties between liquids and solids (gels, foams etc.).

Physical, chemical, transport, structural, and phase properties of gels, colloids, foams, micelles, liotropic systems, nano-particles. Granular systems and modeling of earthquakes. Photosensitive and electrolytic polymers. Novel liquid crystals for fast devices. Applications to food, chemical, cosmetic, plastic, biological and pharmaceutical industry.


Molecular and Cell Biophysics.


Study and application of biological molecules and complex biological systems up to cellular dimension.

Ionic transport in cell and intra-cellular systems. Structure, formation, aggregation of proteins. Folding, unfolding, misfolding of proteins. Structure and interaction in lipid systems, DNA and proteins. Study of the relation between protein groups and biological functions. Applications in biology: structural proteomics and intrinsically unstructured protein (IUP). Medical applications: drug delivery, gene therapies of cancer and hereditary diseases, conduction disturbances. Energetic applications: Photosynthesis and biological photovoltaic, sensors.



Complexity and models.

Elaboration and application of computational systems for modeling of complex biological and organic systems.

Modeling of ecosystems (chaotic populations, events related to a large number of parameters). Avalanche phenomena and nonlinear relaxations (financial crisis, Josephson devices, evolution of cancer, anomalous polymerization). Fluctuating systems (heart beatings, electric signals in disordered materials and large biological molecules). Scaling laws and reaction of inhomogeneous systems. Fluid motion (pollutants, drug delivery). Reconstruction of protein form and complexes.


Diagnostic Techniques.

Novel techniques of investigation in organic, biological and medical applications.

Data banks of measurements of biological standards. Microstructure and morphology of medical tissues and biomaterials (e.g. synchrotron micro-computed tomography). Electrical nanosensors. Noninvasive optical probes for carcinomas and thrombosis. Diagnostic for cultural heritage (dating and identification of origin). Toxicology and certification of food quality.

Solids and nanotechnologies


Study, application and research of advanced superconducting systems.

2D hexagonal systems (MgB2, graphite and intercalated, iron based compounds and cuprates): measure and modeling of electronic and phononic bands and gaps, effects of strong electronic correlations, phase fluctuations, transitions between electric and magnetic phases. Application to RF resonant cavities.



Study and application of volume and surface (interface) structural properties in metals and nanostructures of metals.

Metallic glasses. Artificial and self-organized growth of nanostructured systems: drug delivery, engineering of electronic and metallurgic properties through confinement. Sensors.


Magnetism and spintronics.

Study of fundamental properties of magnetic systems and application to electronic devices and sensors.

Magnetic systems with perpendicular anisotropy for mass memory, integration on Si and Ge. Engineering of magnetic properties of thin films through induced strain. Magnetic multi-layers. Junctions with giant magneto-resistance and with tunnel effect on nanoscopic scales via lithography and self-organization. Frustrated magnetic systems and spin glasses. Molecular magnets. Magnetic imaging. Nanostructures systems: entanglement, dynamics, Barkhausen noise, magnetic anisotropy, vortices and magnetic modes on nano scales, models for spin lattices with integer and semi-integer spins.  Continuous and nano granular films. Spin valves.


Surfaces and interfaces.

Study of fundamental properties of growth and self-organization of interfaces.

Catalysis, friction, electronic and magnetic structure, mechanic properties and anisotropies of interfaces investigated on modified surfaces via: molecule absorption (e.g. H2, O2, CO, CO2, NO, H2O, C60, organic molecules, bio-molecules), growth of thin films, growth of self-organized  structures obtained via deposition and patterning of the interfaces.  

Bi-dimensional electron gases. Carbon nanotubes and graphene.



Study and application of volume and surface (interface) structural properties in nanostructures and semiconductors.

Magnetic semiconductors. Deposition in vacuum, vapor and liquid phases. Growth of nanostructures for self-organization and for lithography (optical, electronic, ionic): catalysis, friction, electronic and magnetic structure, mechanical properties and their anisotropy. Interaction between semiconductors and organic media, integration of electronic devices. Modification of the properties via confinement to nanoscales.  Modeling of low-dimensional systems. Nanostructures sensors for gases, biomolecules explosives. Photoelectric and photovoltaic.




Study and application of volume and surface (interface) structural properties in nanostructures of oxides.

Sensors. Ordered growth of oxides. Devices, MOS, MIS, magnetic oxides.