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Journal Article

Ionic liquids behave as dilute electrolyte solutions


Valtiner,  Markus
Interaction Forces and Functional Materials, Interface Chemistry and Surface Engineering, Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH, Max Planck Society;

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Gebbie, M. A., Valtiner, M., Banquy, X., Fox, E. T., Henderson, W. A., & Israelachvili, J. N. (2013). Ionic liquids behave as dilute electrolyte solutions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 110(24), 9674-9679. doi:10.1073/pnas.1307871110.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0026-BAB7-1
We combine direct surface force measurements with thermodynamic arguments to demonstrate that pure ionic liquids are expected to behave as dilute weak electrolyte solutions, with typical effective dissociated ion concentrations of less than 0.1% at room temperature. We performed equilibrium forcedistance measurements across the common ionic liquid 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium bis(trifluoromethanesulfonyl)imide ([C(4)mim][NTf2]) using a surface forces apparatus with in situ electrochemical control and quantitatively modeled these measurements using the van der Waals and electrostatic double-layer forces of the DerjaguinLandauVerweyOverbeek theory with an additive repulsive steric (entropic) ionsurface binding force. Our results indicate that ionic liquids screen charged surfaces through the formation of both bound (Stern) and diffuse electric double layers, where the diffuse double layer is comprised of effectively dissociated ionic liquid ions. Additionally, we used the energetics of thermally dissociating ions in a dielectric medium to quantitatively predict the equilibrium for the effective dissociation reaction of [C(4)mim][NTf2] ions, in excellent agreement with the measured Debye length. Our results clearly demonstrate that, outside of the bound double layer, most of the ions in [C(4)mim][NTf2] are not effectively dissociated and thus do not contribute to electrostatic screening. We also provide a general, molecular-scale framework for designing ionic liquids with significantly increased dissociated charge densities via judiciously balancing ion pair interactions with bulk dielectric properties. Our results clear up several inconsistencies that have hampered scientific progress in this important area and guide the rational design of unique, highfree-ion density ionic liquids and ionic liquid blends.