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Phys Chem Chem Phys. 2011 Aug 14;13(30):13518-26. doi: 10.1039/c1cp20563c. Epub 2011 Jun 3.

Effect of alkyl chain length and hydroxyl group functionalization on the surface properties of imidazolium ionic liquids.

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Laboratoire Thermodynamique et Interactions Moléculaires, Clermont Université, Université Blaise Pascal, BP 80026, 63171 Aubiere, France.


Properties of the surface of ionic liquids, such as surface tension, ordering, and charge and density profiles, were studied using molecular simulation. Two types of modification in the molecular structure of imidazolium cations were studied: the length of the alkyl side chain and the presence of a polar hydroxyl group at the end of the side chain. Four ionic liquids were considered: 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium tetrafluoroborate, [C(2)C(1)im][BF(4)]; 1-(2-hydroxyethyl)-3-methylimidazolium tetrafluoroborate, [C(2)OHC(1)im][BF(4)]; 1-octyl-3-methylimidazolium tetrafluoroborate, [C(8)C(1)im][BF(4)] and 1-(8-hydroxyoctyl)-3-methylimidazolium tetrafluoroborate, [C(8)OHC(1)im][BF(4)]. The surface tension was calculated using both mechanical and thermodynamic definitions, with consistent treatment of the long-range corrections. The simulations reproduce the available experimental values of surface tension with a maximum deviation of ±10%. This energetic characterization of the interface is completed by microscopic structural analysis of orientational ordering at the interface and density profiles along the direction normal to the interface. The presence of the hydroxyl group modifies the local structure at the interface, leading to a less organized liquid phase. The results allow us to relate the surface tension to the structural ordering at the liquid-vacuum interface.


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