Effect of Pore Confinement of Ionic Liquids on Solute Diffusion within Mesoporous Silica Microparticles

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The transport properties of the ionic liquid (IL) 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium hexafluorophosphate ([BMIM][PF6]) confined within silica microparticles with well-ordered, accessible mesopores (5.4 or 9 nm diameter) were investigated. [BMIM][PF6] confinement was confirmed by using differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy. The transport properties of the confined IL were studied using the neutral and cationic fluorescent probes 4-(dicyanomethylene)-2-methyl-6-(4-dimethylaminostyryl)-4H-pyran (DCM) and rhodamine 6G, respectively, through fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) in confocal microscopy. The diffusivity of DCM in 9 nm pores is 0.026 ± 0.0091 μm2/s, which is 2 orders of magnitude less than in the bulk ionic liquid. The pore size did not affect the diffusivity of DCM in unmodified silica nanopores. The diffusivity of the cationic probe is reduced by 63% relative to that of the neutral probe. Diffusivity is increased with water content, where equilibrium hydration of the system leads to a 37% increase in DCM diffusivity. The most dramatic impact on diffusivity was caused by tethering an IL-like methylimidazolium chloride group to the pores, which increased the pore hydrophobicity and resulted in 3-fold higher diffusivity of DCM compared to bare silica pores. Subsequent exchange of the chloride anion from the tethering group with PF6- decreased the diffusivity to half that of bare silica. The diffusion of probe molecules is affected most strongly by the pore wall effects on probe interactions rather than by the pore size itself, which suggests that understanding pore wall diffusion is critical to the design of nanoconfined ILs for separations, catalysis, and energy storage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3046-3060
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number12
StatePublished - Mar 28 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 American Chemical Society.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Materials Chemistry


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