In this work, polymeric coated Long Period Gratings (LPGs) working in transition mode have been used to monitor the coordination and self assembling of water nano-layers (typical thicknesses range in few tens of nanometers) providing new scenarios in chemical sensing applications. In particular, nano-scale layers (∼320nm) of semicrystalline syndiotactic and amorphous atactic polystyrene (sPS and aPS), have been deposited by dip-coating onto LPGs to tune the devices at the transition point. Experimental results demonstrate the polymers capability to orient water molecules in proximity of their surfaces. The sPS and aPS interactions with water have been continuously monitored and then compared demonstrating the higher capability of the crystalline phase of sPS to orient water nano-layers. Moreover, the high sensitivity of the coated LPGs was used to monitor the effect of disorder induced on the interfacial water molecular arrangement by different cations (sodium, Na+, potassium, K+, and calcium, Ca2+, ions) depending on their size and electrical charge. Experimental results show for the first time that, thanks to the water-polymer interaction, sPS coated LPGs could be successfully employed as high sensitivity cation sensors. In fact, the monitoring of the disorder induced by cations on the coordinated water layer leads to high sensitivities, in terms of detected RI change for unitary variation of concentration (∼7.80 · 10−4RIU · mM−1 for Na+ ions, ∼9.00 · 10−4RIU · mM−1 for K+ ions, and ∼1.07 · 10−3RIU · mM−1 for Ca2+ ions).
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