Nanosegregation and Structuring in the Bulk and at the Surface of Ionic-Liquid Mixtures

Duncan W. Bruce, Christopher P. Cabry, Jose Nuno Canongia Lopes, Matthew Lawrence Costen, Lucia D'Andrea, Isabelle Grillo, Brooks C. Marshall, Kenneth George McKendrick, Timothy K. Minton, Simon M Purcell, Sarah Rogers, John M. Slattery, Karina Shimizu, Eric Smoll, Maria Antonia Tesa-Serrate

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Ionic-liquid (IL) mixtures hold great promise, as they allow liquids with a wide range of properties to be formed by mixing two common components, rather than by synthesizing a large array of pure ILs with different chemical structures. In addition, these mixtures can exhibit a range of properties and structural organization that depend on their composition, which opens up new possibilities for the composition-dependent control of IL properties for particular applications. However, the fundamental properties, structure and dynamics of IL mixtures are currently poorly understood, which limits their more widespread application. This paper presents the first comprehensive investigation into the bulk and surface properties of IL mixtures formed from two commonly encountered ILs: 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium and 1-dodecyl-3-methylimidazolium bis(trifluoromethylsulfonyl)imide ([C2mim][Tf2N] and [C12mim][Tf2N]). Physical property measurements (viscosity, conductivity and density) find that these IL mixtures are not well described by simple mixing laws, suggesting that their structure and dynamics are strongly composition-dependent. Small-angle X-ray and neutron scattering (SAXS and SANS) measurements, alongside molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, show that at low mole fractions of [C12mim][Tf2N], the bulk of the IL is composed of small aggregates of [C12mim]+ ions in a [C2mim][Tf2N] matrix, which is driven by nano-segregation of the long alkyl chains and the polar parts of the IL. As the proportion of [C12mim][Tf2N] in the mixtures increases, the size and number of aggregates increases until the C12 alkyl chains percolate through the system and a bicontinuous network of polar and non-polar domains is formed. Reactive atom scattering-laser-induced fluorescence (RAS-LIF) experiments, also supported by MD simulations, have been used to probe the surface structure of these mixtures. It is found that the vacuum-IL interface is enriched significantly in C12 alkyl chains, even in mixtures low in the long-chain component. These data show, contrary to previous suggestions, that the [C12mim]+ ion is surface active in this binary IL mixture. However, the surface does not become saturated in C12 chains as its proportion in the mixtures increases and remains unsaturated in pure [C12mim][Tf2N].
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6002–6020
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number24
Early online date1 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2017


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