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The surfaces of three imidazolium based ionic liquids with a common anion were studied with angle-resolved X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). The room temperature ionic liquids (RTILs): 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium (bmim), 1-hexyl-3-methylimidazolium (hmim), and 1-octyl-3-methylimidazolium (omim) tetrafluoroborates, were meticulously purified and dried under vacuum. Survey and high-resolution spectra were obtained at different take-off angles (0–84°), thus increasing the surface sensitivity of the measurement. No impurities were detected and the survey spectra at normal emission (0°) confirmed the stoichiometric composition of the liquids. However, the spectra at take-off angles of 60, 70, 80 and 84° indicated a higher amount of carbon. High resolution spectra of C1s, at these angles, showed an increased amount of aliphatic carbon when compared to the spectra at normal emission. The longer the side chain (R) of the imidazolium cation (Rmim), the larger was the amount of aliphatic carbon detected. Previous studies with other surface sensitive techniques have yielded contradictory conclusions about the surface orientation of the Rmim. We conclude unequivocally that the alkyl chain of the imidazolium ring of the investigated RTILs is oriented away from the liquid. Our study demonstrates the ability of XPS to probe the structure, along with the composition, of the free liquid surface by comparing signals from different penetration depths.
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Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics
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