Extremely slow dynamics of ionic liquid self-assembled nanostructures near a solid surface

Hua Li, Jianan Wang, Gregory G. Warr, Rob Atkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Hypothesis: The dynamics of the self-assembled liquid nanostructure of the ionic liquids (ILs) near a mica surface can be determined from video-rate atomic force microscopy (AFM) data.Experiments: Video-rate AFM has been used to record the nanostructure dynamics of two most widely studied ILs, 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium bis(trifluoromethylsulfonyl)imide (BMIM TFSI) and ethylam-monium nitrate (EAN), as well as EAN-water mixtures, above a model anode, mica. Diffusion coefficients were extracted from the AFM videos using dynamic differential microscopy and direct tracking.Findings: Video rate AFM is able to record the movement of the IL nanostructure. This is the first time that any liquid has been directly visualized at a scale of 10 nm x 10 nm in real-time. Diffusion coefficients determined from AFM videos reveal IL nanostructures near surfaces diffuse orders of magnitude more slowly than individual ions in the bulk. Thus, rather than free-flowing liquid, the near-surface nanostruc-ture is better conceptualized as self-assembled aggregates of IL ions diffusing slowly over the cation-rich Stern layer, akin to adsorbed surfactant micelles in aqueous systems. This new and surprising insight affects wide-ranging processes involving the interfacial dynamics of concentrated electrolytes.Crown Copyright (c) 2022 Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)658-665
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Colloid and Interface Science
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2023


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