X-NANO, the new IIT start-up: nanomaterials for the energy transition


The newly-formed company develops nanotechnology for industries working in the fields of next-generation batteries, nuclear power and hydrogen

Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italian Institute of Technology, IIT) presents X-nano, a new start-up company that developed from research activities by the team led by Fabio Di Fonzo, a researcher at IIT’s Center for Nano Science and Technology in Milan (CNST-IIT), which will develop new nanomaterials for the energy transition.

Building on the knowledge and expertise acquired in the preparation of materials and coatings utilising physical processes of reduced environmental impact, X-nano is able to create nanomaterials with hitherto unexplored properties. Nanotechnology will increasingly be at the heart of the energy transition, with applications ranging from the production of hydrogen to next-generation batteries and the nuclear energy of the future, including fusion, all topics on which the start-up has already accumulated extensive expertise by means of the research team that has developed at IIT.

The recently-established company, founded by Fabio Di Fonzo and entrepreneur Paolo Mutti, has set up its operational headquarters in Milan. X-nano will develop new materials in collaboration with the enterprise sector, right through to the creation of pre-commercial prototypes. It will then be the start-up’s client companies that will industrialise the processes, scaling up what X-nano has created.

X-nano has already developed several advanced materials for battery production, from synthetic graphite made using “green” processes to silicon-graphite blends as anodes for lithium-ion batteries, to high-performance nanostructured electrodes for vanadium redox flow batteries. These materials, among the most critical for the development of sustainable mobility and the integration of renewables into the electricity grid, will enable the development of batteries that are more sustainable, more efficient and independent of geopolitical supply-chain issues.

Still on the subject of the alternative energy sector, X-nano is working on hydrogen, an area in which it is contributing to the development of solutions on multiple levels: from the creation of advanced reactors for the pyrolysis of methane to nanostructured catalysts for the production of green H2, which will enable electrolysers to have greater efficiency and productivity.

Lastly, the start-up produces multifunctional ceramic coatings on metal components designed to overcome some of the critical issues typical of the latest generation of nuclear technology, such as corrosion caused by high-temperature liquid metals and tritium permeation, thereby increasing the efficiency and safety of this emission-free, clean energy production method, which looks set to be mankind’s most effective weapon in the fight against global warming over the coming decades.

We want a future in which energy is the solution, not a problem,” commented Paolo Mutti, CEO and co-founder of X-nano. “Nanotechnology can truly play an important part in the energy transition and in many industrial applications”.

We use invisible building blocks to enable the energy transition and all those applications where nanotechnology is a real innovation. Such as, for example, new solutions for electrochemical water sanitisation, new pathways to waste-derived bioplastics, and solar cells based on nanoscale optical architectures for solar power generation on earth and in space,” added Fabio Di Fonzo, researcher at Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, and President, CTO and co-founder of X-nano.

At the end of November, X-nano also announced its participation in the capital of the Pietro Fiorentini Group, one of the largest industrial concerns in north-eastern Italy, with more than 40 manufacturing and business sites in Italy and abroad, employing about 2,400 workers worldwide. In 2021, it reached a turnover of 466 million euro, a figure that represents a growth of over 17% when compared to 2020. The Group has a solid customer base of natural gas distribution and transportation companies, oil & gas corporations, EPCs, industrial end-users and utilities, and with its entry into X-nano it intends to facilitate the development and industrialisation of solutions for the energy transition.


X-nano was created as a start-up at IIT (Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Italian Institute of Technology) with the objective of developing nanotechnology applications to enable the implementation of critical phases in the energy transition, in compliance with the complete sustainability of the respective processes. X-nano builds on consolidated expertise in the preparation of nanomaterials and nano-coatings by means of techniques based on plasma, laser and thermal deposition, assisted by supersonic and subsonic flow jets. The company can rely on a strong portfolio of intellectual property based on broad scientific foundations, as demonstrated by over 100 publications in international journals. 


Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT)

Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italian Institute of Technology) is a state-funded scientific research centre that promotes technological progress with the aim of supporting excellence in basic and applied research to foster the development of the national economic system. IIT’s research activities are characterised by a strongly multidisciplinary approach, and they cover four scientific areas: robotics, computational sciences, life science technology and nanomaterials.