Taming Polymorphism via Electric and Electromagnetic Fields

  • Supervisor: Yves Henri Geerts
  • Research center: Service de Chimie des Polymères
  • Research start date: 15.02.2021


Molecular crystals are of paramount importance in a broad range of fields, e.g., drugs development, pigments and optoelectronics. Their properties are finely tunable by carefully designing starting molecular building blocks and lattice architecture. However, molecular crystals are prone to polymorphism, the appearance of multiple crystal forms starting from the same molecules. This threatens the reliable production of marketable products based on crystalline materials. The crystallization process is inherently complex and far from being understood due to a lack of knowledge of out-of-equilibrium thermodynamics. The ambitious goal of the project is to validate a solvent-free strategy for the a priori selection of crystal forms. This will be done by pushing target molecular crystals far from equilibrium through strong electric fields, electromagnetic radiation and undercooling to induce crystal-to-crystal phase transitions and crystallization from melt of target polymorphs.


Luca Catalano received his Bachelor in Chemistry from the University of Milan (2011) and his M.S. in Photochemistry and Molecular Materials from the University of Bologna, working with Professor Dario Braga (2013). He then earned his Ph.D. in supramolecular chemistry from the Polytechnic University of Milan under the supervision of Professor Pierangelo Metrangolo (2017). After a first postdoctoral appointment at New York University Abu Dhabi working with Professor Panče Naumov on molecular crystalline materials (2017-2020), he joined the lab of Andy Cooper at the University of Liverpool as Postdoctoral Research Associate to work on porous liquids and crystals (2020-2021). Since February 2021, he is MSCA cofund ULB Fellow hosted by Yves Geerts at the Université libre de Bruxelles.


  1. D. Karothu, G. Dushaq, E. Ahmed, L. Catalano, S. Polavaram, R. Ferreira, L. Li, S. Mohamed, M. Rasras and P. Naumov,* Mechanically Robust Amino Acid Crystals as Fiber-optic Transducers and Wide Bandpass Filters for Optical Communication in the Near-infrared, Nat. Commun., 2021, 12, 1326. link
  2. L. Catalano, L.S. Germann, P.A. Julien, M. Arhangelskis, I. Halasz, K. Užarević, M. Etter, R.E. Dinnebier, M. Cametti, J. Martì-Rujas, T. Friščić,* P. Metrangolo,* G. Resnati and G. Terraneo,* Open vs. Interpenetrated: Switchable Supramolecular Trajectories in Mechanosynthesis of a Halogen-Bonded Borromean Network, Chem, 2021, 7, 146-154. link
  3. L. Catalano, J. Berthaud, G. Dushaq, D.P. Karothu, R. Rezgui, M. Rasras, S. Ferlay, M.W. Hosseini* and P. Naumov,* Sequencing and Welding of Molecular SingleCrystal Optical Waveguides, Adv. Funct. Mater., 2020, 30, 2003443. link
  4. P. Naumov,* D.P. Karothu, E. Ahmed, L. Catalano, P. Commins, J.M. Halabi, M.B. Al-Handawi and L. Li, The Rise of the Dynamic Crystals, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2020, 142, 31, 13256–13272. link
  5. M. Annadhasan, D.P. Karothu, R. Chinnasamy, L. Catalano, E. Ahmed, S. Ghosh,* P. Naumov* and R. Chandrasekar,* Micromanipulation of Mechanically Compliant Organic SingleCrystal Optical Microwaveguides, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2020, 59, 13821-13830. link
  6. G. Raj, S. Kikkawa, L. Catalano, R. Pasricha, Y. Norikane and P. Naumov,* Supramolecular Organization of Model Polycyclic Aromatic Molecules: Comparison of 2D and 3D Assemblies, ChemNanoMat, 2020, 6, 68-72 link
  7. C. Cappuccino, L. Catalano, F. Marin, G. Dushaq, G. Raj, M. Rasras, R. Rezgui, M. Zambianchi, M. Melucci, P. Naumov* and L. Maini,* Structure–Mechanical Relationships in Polymorphs of an Organic Semiconductor (C4-NT3N), 2020, 20, 884-891. link
  8. M. Saccone* and L. Catalano,* Halogen Bonding Beyond Crystals in Materials Science, J. Phys. Chem. B, 2019, 123, 9281-9290. (ACS editor’s choice and featured on the Front Cover) link
  9. J.M. Halabi, E. Ahmed, L. Catalano, D.P. Karothu, R. Rezgui and P. Naumov,* Spatial Photocontrol of the Optical Output from an Organic Crystal Waveguide, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2019, 141, 14966-14970. link
  10. A. Pizzi, L. Catalano, N. Demitri, V. Dichiarante, G. Terraneo and P. Metrangolo,* Halogen bonding as a key interaction in the selfassembly of iodinated diphenylalanine peptides, Peptide Science, 2020, 112, e24127. link
  11. L. Catalano, P. Commins, S. Schramm, D.P. Karothu, R. Rezgui, K. Hadef and P. Naumov,* A filled organic crystal as a hybrid large-bandwidth optical waveguide, Chem. Commun., 2019, 55, 4921-4924. link
  12. S. Schramm, D.P. Karothu, N.M. Lui, P. Commins, E. Ahmed, L. Catalano, L. Li, J. Weston, T. Moriwaki, K. Solntsev and P. Naumov,* Thermochemiluminescent peroxide crystals, Nat. Commun., 2019, 10, 997. link
  13. A.J. Zaczek, L. Catalano, P. Naumov and T.M. Korter,* Mapping the polymorphic transformation gateway vibration in crystalline 1,2,4,5-tetrabromobenzene, Chem. Sci., 2019, 10, 1332-1341. (selected as Hot Article) link
  14. L. Catalano, D.P. Karothu, S. Schramm, E. Ahmed, R. Rezgui, T.J. Barber, A. Famulari, and P. Naumov,* DualMode Light Transduction through a Plastically Bendable Organic Crystal as an Optical Waveguide, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2018, 57, 17254-17258. link
  15. L. Catalano* and P. Naumov, Exploiting rotational motion in molecular crystals, CrystEngComm, 2018, 20, 5872. (featured on the Back Cover of the special issue “Young Talents 2018”) link
  16. M.J. Szell, A. Siiskonen, L. Catalano, G. Cavallo,* G. Terraneo, A. Priimagi, D.L. Bryce and P. Metrangolo,* Halogen-bond driven self-assembly of triangular macrocycles, New J. Chem., 2018, 42, 10467-10471. link
  17. V. Dichiarante, I. Tirotta, L. Catalano, G. Terraneo, G. Raffaini, M. R. Chierotti, R. Gobetto, F. Baldelli Bombelli* and P. Metrangolo,* Superfluorinated and NIR-luminescent gold nanoclusters, Chem. Commun., 2017, 53, 621-624. link
  18. L. Catalano, S. Pérez-Estrada, H.-H. Wang, A. J.-L. Ayitou, S. I. Khan, G. Terraneo,* P. Metrangolo, S. Brown and M. A. Garcia-Garibay,* Rotational Dynamics of Diazabicyclo[2.2.2]octane in Isomorphous Halogen-Bonded Co-crystals: Entropic and Enthalpic Effects, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2017, 139, 843-848. link 
  19. P. Cerreia-Vioglio, L. Catalano, V. Vasylyeva, M.R. Chierotti, C. Nervi, G. Resnati, R. Gobetto* and P. Metrangolo,* Natural Abundance 15N and 13C SolidState NMR Chemical Shifts: High Sensitivity Probes of the Halogen Bond Geometry, Chem. Eur. J., 2016, 22, 16819-16828. (Featured on the Inside Cover and selected as Hot Paper). link
  20. L. Catalano, P. Metrangolo,* T. Pilati, G. Resnati,* G. Terraneo and M. Ursini,* Metric engineering in hybrid perfluorocarbon-hydrocarbon cocrystals, J. Fluorine Chem., 2016, 196, 32-36. link
  21. V. Vasylyeva,# L. Catalano,# C. Nervi, R. Gobetto, P. Metrangolo* and G. Resnati,* Characteristic redshift and intensity enhancement as far-IR fingerprints of the halogen bond involving aromatic donors, CrystEngComm, 2016, 18, 2247-2250. #these authors equally contributed. (Featured on the Front Cover) link
  22. L. Catalano, G. Cavallo, P. Metrangolo,* G. Resnati* and G. Terraneo, Halogen Bonding in Hypervalent Iodine Compounds, Top. Curr. Chem., 2016, 289-309. link
  23. L. Catalano, S. Pérez-Estrada, G. Terraneo,* T. Pilati, G. Resnati, P. Metrangolo* and M. A. Garcia-Garibay,* Dynamic Characterization of Crystalline Supramolecular Rotors Assembled through Halogen Bonding, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2015, 167, 49, 15386. link
  24. F. Grepioni,* S. D'Agostino, D. Braga, A. Bertocco, L. Catalano and B. Ventura,* Fluorescent crystals and co-crystals of 1,8-naphthalimide derivatives: synthesis, structure determination and photophysical characterization, J. Mat. Chem. C, 2015, 3, 9425-9434. link
  25. A. Bertolani, L. Pirrie, L. Stefan, N. Houbenov, J.S. Haataja, L. Catalano, G. Terraneo, G. Giancane, L. Valli, R. Milani, O. Ikkala, G. Resnati and P. Metrangolo,* Supramolecular amplification of amyloid self-assembly by iodination, Nat. Commun., 2015, 6, 7574. link
  26. B. Ventura,* A. Bertocco, D. Braga, L. Catalano, S. D'Agostino, F. Grepioni* and P. Taddei,* Luminescence Properties of 1,8-Naphthalimide Derivatives in Solution, in Their Crystals, and in Co-crystals: Toward Room-Temperature Phosphorescence from Organic Materials, J. Phys. Chem. C, 2014, 118, 18646-18658. link