Paola Lova's research mainly focuses on polymer photonic structures for the detection of pollutant and molecular analytes in the vapor and liquid phase and on the use of similar systems to describe polymer-solvent diffusion processes, interaction properties and well as thermodynamics via simple tools as optical spectroscopy.
She is also working on the development of solution processed hybrid polymer-inorganic and all inorganic photonic structures with high dielectrc contrast for light emission control (e.g. light harvesting enhancement, photovoltaics, light out-coupling for lightening devices, emission rate enhancement) and lasing.
Polymer Vapor and Water Sensors:
This project deals with the development of a polymer planar photonic crystals with enhanced permeability for the label-free detection of air and water pollutants able to overcome the limitations of current technologies and to provide a tool for the assessment of air and water quality.
Label-free selectivity is achieved exploiting the different kinetics of analytes intercalation within the polymers which is ruled by polymer-analyte chemico-physical interactions (FLORY-HUGGINS PARAMETERS). Such kinetics allow to disentangle the analytes without chemical labels.
Molecular diffusion in thin films:
The study of the kinetics of the optical response during sorption/desorption processes allowed a new method for the assessment of molecular diffusion coefficients in thin films by simple UV-Vis optical spectroscopy on both polymer and porous inorganic matrices. Recent work, demonstrated that the method can be applied also to commercial thin film used in food packaging systems.
Historically Inorganic photonic structures have been employed for the control of light to achieve emission enhancement, lasing, optical switchers and even photon recycling in photovoltaic devices. While inorganics provides outstanding performances owing to high dielectric contrast, they requires costly and time consuming fabrications. This research path aims to demonstrate that solution processable polymers and hybrid materials can replace inorganic media in the field. To this aim, several commercial and synthetic polymers were employed demonstrating that polymer structures are suitable for emission enhancement and lasing for inorganic nanocrystals, J-aggregates, and even perovskite emitters.
When a photoactive medium is integrated into a dielectric lattice, light absorption can be amplified within the medium itself at the stop-band edges owing to (i) light confinement and (ii) generation of slow photons propagating with reduced group velocity and thus with a longer lifetime and stronger interaction with the medium.
This topic focus on the design and fabrication of photoactive Bragg stack made of oxide semiconductors and cast via mild condition solution processing to demonstrate slow photon enhancement in water remediation and other photocatalytic processes.
Chemical Processes and Synthesis:
Engineering new polymeric structures often requires materials that are not available commercially.
To this end, several active media where engineered and/or synthetized ad-hoc, and their processability was investigated. A large work has been performed on the synthesis of inorganic nanoparticles and on their compatibilization with polymers to fabricate optical nanocomposite thin films with controllable permeability and refractive index and on the solution processing of fully-inorganic structures. Similarly, low-refractive index perfluorinated polymers were compatibilized with the fabrication of photonic structures.