Exploring gas-phase ionic liquid aggregates by mass spectrometry and computational chemistry
Gray, Andrew Peter
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Ionic liquids (IL) are salts which are liquid at low temperatures, typically with melting points under 100 °C. In recent years ILs have been treated as novel solvents and used in a wide variety of applications such as analytical and separation processes, electrochemical devices and chemical syntheses. The properties of many ILs have been extensively studied; these studies have primarily focused on the investigation of key physical properties including viscosity, density and solubility. This thesis presents mass spectrometry (MS) and computational data to investigate the intrinsic interactions between a small number of IL ions and also their interactions with contaminants. MS was used to study gas-phase aggregates of three ILs based on the 1-butyl-3- methylimidazolium (C4mim+) cation. The influence of different ion sources was investigated on C4mimCl. Conventional electrospray ionisation (ESI) and nano-ESI techniques were compared with recently developed sonic-spray ionisation (SSI) and plasma assisted desorption ionisation (PADI). SSI was found to be beneficial to the formation of larger aggregates while PADI was significantly less efficient. Gas-phase structures of the singly charged cationic aggregates of C4mimCl were characterised with the aid of collision induced dissociation (CID) and density functional theory (DFT) calculations. Additionally, CID and DFT gave consistent results for the relative stability of the C4mimCl aggregates, showing a good agreement between experiment and theory. Mixed solutions of C4mimCl with a range of metal chloride salts were used to form aggregates incorporating both IL and metal chlorides. LiCl, NaCl, KCl, CsCl, MgCl2 and ZnCl2 were all combined with C4mimCl. Magic number characteristics were observed for a number of pure IL and mixed aggregates. Many of the mixed species were characterised using MS and DFT calculations. In particular, the relative stabilities were determined and the structures of the aggregates were calculated. It was found that the metal ions would normally act as a core for the aggregates with the stability determined by the metal-chlorine binding strength and the steric hindrance of the aggregates. It was necessary to exploit pseudopotentials as opposed to all-electron basis sets for the larger aggregates and aggregates containing heavy atoms. While water is a very effective contaminant for ILs it was not possible to observe gas-phase IL aggregates incorporating this despite using multiple methods. Additionally the presence of protonated aggregates was likewise not observed throughout the range of experiments. Possible structures where these features would be incorporated were studied with DFT to obtain some insight into their lack of formation.