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Volume 167, 2013
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Monolayer and bilayer structures in ionic liquids and their mixtures confined to nano-films

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The confinement of liquids to thin films can lead to dramatic changes in their structural arrangement and dynamic properties. Ionic liquids display nano-structures in the bulk of the liquid, consisting of polar and non-polar domains, whereas a solid surface can induce layered structures in the near-surface liquid. Here we compare and contrast the layer structures in a series of imidazolium and pyrrolidinium-based ionic liquids upon confinement of the liquids to films of ∼0–20 nm between two negatively charged mica surfaces. Using a surface force balance (SFB) we measured the force between the two atomically smooth mica surfaces with ionic liquid between, directly revealing the ion packing and dimensions of layered structures for each liquid. The ionic liquids with shorter alkyl chain substituents form alternating cation–anion monolayer structures on confinement, whilst a longer alkyl chain leads to alignment of the cations in bilayer formation. The crossover from monolayers to bilayers, however, occurs at different alkyl chain lengths for imidazolium- and pyrrolidinium-based ionic liquids with a common anion. In addition, we find that imidazolium cation bilayers are arranged in toe-to-toe orientation, whereas pyrrolidinium cations form bilayers consisting of fully interdigitated alkyl chains. Results for a mixture of monolayer-preferring (i.e. short alkyl chain) and bilayer-preferring (i.e. long alkyl chain) liquids indicate alkyl chain segregation and bilayer-like structures. We discuss the driving forces for these self-assembly effects, and the contrasting behaviour of the imidazolium and pyrrolidinium-type ionic liquids.

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Publication details

The article was received on 05 May 2013, accepted on 10 Jul 2013 and first published on 11 Jul 2013

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C3FD00075C
Citation: Faraday Discuss., 2013,167, 279-292
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    Monolayer and bilayer structures in ionic liquids and their mixtures confined to nano-films

    A. M. Smith, K. R. J. Lovelock and S. Perkin, Faraday Discuss., 2013, 167, 279
    DOI: 10.1039/C3FD00075C

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