Supramolecular ionogels prepared with bis(amino alcohol)oxamides as gelators: ionic transport and mechanical properties†
Supramolecular ionogels composed of an ionic liquid (IL) immobilized in a network of self-assembled low-molecular weight molecules have been attracting considerable interest due to their applicability as smart electrolytes for various electrochemical applications. Despite considerable scientific effort in this field, the design of a mechanically and thermally stable yet highly conductive supramolecular ionogels still remains a challenge. In this article, we report on a series of novel ionogels of three ILs containing different cations (imidazolium/pyrrolidinium) and anions (tetrafluoroborate/bis(trifluoromethylsulfonyl)imide) prepared using (S,S)-bis(amino alcohol)oxamides as gelators. The gelation behaviour of the oxamide compound depends strongly on the structural features of amino alcohol substituents. Among them, (S,S)-bis(valinol)oxamide (capable of gelling all three ILs) and (S,S)-bis(phenylalaninol)oxamide (capable of gelling ILs based on bis(trifluoromethylsulfonyl)imide with a concentration as low as ≈0.2 wt%) are highly efficient. All investigated supramolecular ionogels retain the high ionic conductivity and ion diffusion coefficients of their parent IL, even for high gelator concentrations. Further, at low temperatures we observe an enhancement of the ionic conductivity in ionogels of (i) 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium tetrafluoroborate which can be attributed to specific interactions between ionic species and gelator molecules and (ii) 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium bis(trifluoromethylsulfonyl)imide due to inhibited crystallization. In contrast to ionic transport, mechanical strength of the ionogels shows a wider variation depending on the type and concentration of the oxamide gelator. Among all the ionogels, that of 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium bis(trifluoromethylsulfonyl)imide prepared with 1 wt% (S,S)-bis(phenylalaninol)oxamide exhibits the best performance: optical transparency, stability over a wide temperature range, high conductivity and high mechanical strength. The results presented here reveal the versatile nature of bis(amino alcohol)oxamides as gelators and their high potential for preparing functionalized IL-based materials.