Influence of alkyl chain length and anion species on ionic liquid structure at the graphite interface as a function of applied potential

Hua Li, Ross J. Wood, Frank Endres, Rob Atkin

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Atomic force microscopy (AFM) force measurements elucidate the effect of cation alkyl chain length and the anion species on ionic liquid (IL) interfacial structure at highly ordered pyrolytic graphite (HOPG) surfaces as a function of potential. Three ILs are examined: 1-hexyl-3-methylimidazolium tris(pentafluoroethyl)trifluorophosphate ([HMIM] FAP), 1-ethyl-3- methylimidazolium tris(pentafluoroethyl)trifluorophosphate ([EMIM] FAP), and 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium bis(trifluoromethylsulfonyl)imide ([EMIM] TFSA). The step-wise force-distance profiles indicate the ILs adopt a multilayered morphology near the surface. When the surface is biased positively or negatively versus Pt quasireference electrode, both the number of steps, and the force required to rupture each step increase, indicating stronger interfacial structure. At all potentials, push-through forces for [HMIM] FAP are the highest, because the long alkyl chain results in strong cohesive interactions between cations, leading to well-formed layers that resist the AFM tip. The most layers are observed for [EMIM] FAP, because the C2 chains are relatively rigid and the dimensions of the cation and anion are similar, facilitating neat packing. [EMIM] TFSA has the smallest push-through forces and fewest layers, and thus the weakest interfacial structure. Surface-tip attractive forces are measured for all ILs. At the same potential, the attractions are the strongest for [EMIM] TFSA and the weakest for [HMIM] FAP because the interfacial layers are better formed for the longer alkyl chain cation. This means interfacial forces are stronger, which masks the weak attractive forces.

Original languageEnglish
Article number284115
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of physics. Condensed matter : an Institute of Physics journal
Issue number28
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2014


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