Nanostructure and Dynamics of Aprotic Ionic Liquids at Graphite Electrodes as a Function of Potential

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Atomic force microscope (AFM) videos reveal the near-surface nanostructure and dynamics of the ionic liquids (ILs) 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium dicyanamide (BMIM DCA) and 1-hexyl-3-methylimidazolium dicyanamide (HMIM DCA) above highly oriented pyrolytic graphite (HOPG) electrodes as a function of surface potential. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations reveal the molecular-level composition of the nanostructures. In combination, AFM and MD show that the near-surface aggregates form via solvophobic association of the cation alkyl chains at the electrode interface. The diffusion coefficients of interfacial nanostructures are ≈0.01 nm2 s−1 and vary with the cation alkyl chain length and the surface potential. For each IL, the nanostructure diffusion coefficients are similar at open-circuit potential (OCP) and OCP + 1V, but BMIM DCA moves about twice as fast as HMIM DCA. At negative potentials, the diffusion coefficient decreases for BMIM DCA and increases for HMIM DCA. When the surface potential is switched from negative to positive, a sudden change in the direction of the nanostructure motion is observed for both BMIM DCA and HMIM DCA. No transient dynamics are noted following other potential jumps. This study provides a new fundamental understanding regarding the dynamics of electrochemically stable ILs at electrodes vital for the rational development of IL-based electrochemical devices.

Original languageEnglish
Early online date4 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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