New dimensions in salt–solvent mixtures: a 4th evolution of ionic liquids†
In the field of ionic liquids (ILs) it has long been of fundamental interest to examine the transition from salt-in-solvent behaviour to pure liquid–salt behaviour, in terms of structures and properties. At the same time, a variety of applications have beneficially employed IL–solvent mixtures as media that offer an optimal set of properties. Their properties in many cases can be other than as expected on the basis of simple mixing concepts. Instead, they can reflect the distinct structural and interaction changes that occur as the mixture passes through the various stages from pure coulombic medium, to “plasticised” coulombic medium, into a meso-region where distinct molecular and ionic domains can co-exist. Such domains can persist to quite a high dilution into the salt-in-solvent regime and their presence manifests itself in a number of important synergistic interaction effects in diverse areas such as membrane transport and corrosion protection. Similarly, the use of ionic liquids in synthetic processes where there is a significant volume fraction of molecular species present can produce a variety of distinct and unexpected effects. The range of these salt–solvent mixtures is considerably broader than just those based on ionic liquids, since there is only minor value in the pure salt being a liquid at the outset. In other words, the extensive families of organic and metal salts become candidates for study and use. Our perspective then is of an evolution of ionic liquids into a broader field of fundamental phenomena and applications. This can draw on an even larger family of tuneable salts that exhibit an exciting combination of properties when mixed with molecular liquids.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Ionic liquids: from fundamental properties to practical applications