SCENT aims to realise isolated, single-chain polymeric nanostructures (i.e. conjugated polymers and carbon chains), featuring one-dimensional (1D) quantum-confined properties in configurations suitable for exploitation as gas-sensors.
The key elements of our proposal are: i) the development of inert zeolites with hierarchical porosity controlled at the nm and sub-nm scale; which will be used to template the realisation of guest polymeric nanostructures featuring the required lateral confinement (thanks to the zeolite pore size), effective quantum-features (thanks to the minimal host-guest interaction arising from zeolite inertness) and stability (host-guest structure); ii) the exploitation of high-pressure (HP) conditions (1-40 kbar), used as the driving force to polymerise and stabilise the guest materials inside the zeolite pores.
These materials are ideal candidates for solid-state gas-sensor devices thanks to their unique features, which have been dreamt since a long time but are still unachieved due to technological gaps encountered in the different approaches adopted up to now. Gas sensors based on carbon nanostructures, inorganic nanowires or nanoparticles, despite the promising results reported in lab tests, are still not able to confirm their potential in real scenarios. The widespread range of chemical interactions/interference experienced in almost every real environment often rises up concerns about the sensitivity, selectivity and stability performance of actual gas sensors. As a result, despite the large societal demand for gas sensors arising from medical, environmental and automotive fields in the trillion of sensors roadmap envisaged by 2025, gas sensors still play a minor role due to such intrinsic functional limitation.
The large surface area of the proposed zeolites, jointed with the extreme downsizing (till the atomic/molecular level) of the guest nanowires, the size/polarity filtering effects of the host zeolite, the stabilising action of the host-guest structure, feature the prospective to bypass current sensitivity, selectivity and stability limitations. The fundamental issue is the exploitation of HP technology to develop solid-state materials with tuned properties. This is possible thanks to the composition of the consortium, which merges research centres (CNR, CNRS), University (UNITO) and European Research infrastructures (LENS), including beam-time at Elettra Synchrotron through UNITO-collaboration, bringing together competences in the HP and gas-sensing fields. The already ongoing collaboration among partners and equipment/work-methodologies developed within this collaboration represent a key-point to achieve the project goals within the 1-year time.