Ionic liquid nanostructure enables alcohol self assembly

Thomas Murphy, Robert Hayes, Silvia Imberti, Gregory G. Warr, Rob Atkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Weakly structured solutions are formed from mixtures of one or more amphiphiles and a polar solvent (usually water), and often contain additional organic components. They contain solvophobic aggregates or association structures with incomplete segregation of components, which leads to a poorly defined interfacial region and significant contact between the solvent and aggregated hydrocarbon groups. The length scales, polydispersity, complexity and ill-defined structures in weakly structured solutions makes them difficult to probe experimentally, and obscures understanding of their formation and stability. In this work we probe the nanostructure of homogenous binary mixtures of the ionic liquid (IL) propylammonium nitrate (PAN) and octanol as a function of composition using neutron diffraction and atomistic empirical potential structure refinement (EPSR) fits. These experiments reveal why octanol forms weakly structured aggregates in PAN but not in water, the mechanism by which PAN stabilises the octanol assemblies, and how the aggregate morphologies evolve with octanol concentration. This new understanding provides insight into the general stabilisation mechanisms and structural features of weakly structured mixtures, and reveals new pathways for identifying molecular or ionic liquids that are likely to facilitate aggregation of non-traditional amphiphiles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12797-12809
Number of pages13
JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


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