Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy was used to characterise the interface between the ultrapure room temperature ionic liquid 1-butyl-1-methylpyrrolidinium tris(pentafluoroethyl)trifluorophosphate and a Au(111) working electrode at electrode potentials more positive than the open circuit potential (−0.14 V vs.Pt pseudo-reference). Plots of the potential-dependent data in the complex capacitance plane reveal the existence of a fast and a slow capacitive process. In order to derive the contribution of both processes to the overall capacitance, the complex capacitance data were fitted using an empirical Cole-Cole equation. The differential capacitance of the fast process is almost constant between −0.14 V and +0.2 V (vs.Pt pseudo-reference) and decreases at more positive potentials, while the differential capacitance of the slower process exhibits a maximum at +0.2 V. This maximum leads to a maximum in the overall differential capacitance. We attribute the slow process to charge redistributions in the innermost ion layer, which require an activation energy in excess of that for ion transport in the room temperature ionic liquid. The differential capacitance maximum of the slow process at +0.2 V is most likely caused by reorientations of the 1-butyl-1-methylpyrrolidinium cations in the innermost layer with the positively charged ring moving away from the Au(111) surface and leaving behind voids which are then occupied by anions. In a recent Monte Carlo simulation by Federov, Georgi and Kornyshev (Electrochem. Commun. 2010, 12, 296), such a process was identified as the origin of a differential capacitance maximum in the anodic regime. Our results suggest that the time scales of capacitive processes at the ionic liquid/metal interface are an important piece of information and should be considered in more detail in future experimental and theoretical studies.
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