Tuning the potential drop at graphene/protic ionic liquid interface by molecular structure engineering

F Raffone and A Lamberti and G Cicero, ELECTROCHIMICA ACTA, 458, 142344 (2023).

DOI: 10.1016/j.electacta.2023.142344

Ionic liquids (ILs) have been extensively employed in many applications involving interfaces with carbon-based electrodes, such as energy storage devices (batteries or supercapacitors) or electrocatalytic devices, where the way each ion of the IL interacts with the electrode has a strong impact on the overall performance of the device. For instance, the amount of potential difference between the electrode and the bulk of the IL is highly sensitive to the IL composition and it is directly related to the device capacitance. The selection of the most suited pair of ions often proceeds by time-consuming and costly trial- and-error approaches. It is necessary to understand the atomistic features of the interface to determine the effect of each ion on the potential drop. By classical molecular dynamics simulations, we show that it is possible to quickly infer the interface potential arising at the carbon electrode by carefully inspecting the molecular structure of the IL. The ion orientation at the interface is, in fact, determined by the distribution of charges within the molecules. Depending on where charges are located, ions can either lie flat or perpendicular to the interface to minimize the surface energy. The interface potential is found to be mainly determined by ion-ion interactions dictating the interface energy minimization process, whereas ion-electrode interactions are found to enforce higher ordering and charge layers stacking but not to induce selective adsorption of an ion over the other.

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