Insights from molecular dynamics simulations on structural organization and diffusive dynamics of an ionic liquid at solid and vacuum interfaces


Hypothesis: A reliable modelling approach is required for simultaneous characterisation of static and dynamic properties of bulk and interfacial ionic liquids (ILs). This is a prerequisite for a successful investigation of experimentally inaccessible, yet important properties, including those that change significantly with the distance from both vacuum and solid interfaces. Simulations: We perform molecular dynamics simulations of bulk [C2Mim][NTf2], and thick IL films in contact with vacuum and hydroxylated sapphire surface, using the charge methods CHelpG, RESP-HF and RESP-B3LYP with charge scaling factors 1.0, 0.9 and 0.85. Findings: By determining and employing appropriate system sizes and simulations lengths, and by benchmarking against self-diffusion coefficients, surface tension, X-ray reflectivity, and structural data, we identify RESP-HF/0.9 as the best non-polarizable force field for this IL. We use this optimal parametrisation to predict novel physical properties of confined IL films. First we fully characterise the internal configurations and orientations of IL molecules relative to, and as a function of the distance from the solid and vacuum interfaces. Second, we evaluate densities together with mobilities in-plane and normal to the interfaces and find that strong correlations between the IL’s stratification and diffusive transport in the interfacial layers persist for several nanometres deep into IL films.

Journal of Colloid and Interface Science