Simulating structure and dynamics in small droplets of 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium acetate

M Brehm and D Sebastiani, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 148, 193802 (2018).

DOI: 10.1063/1.5010342

To investigate the structure and dynamics of small ionic liquid droplets in gas phase, we performed a DFT-based ab initio molecular dynamics study of several 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium acetate clusters in vacuum as well as a bulk phase simulation. We introduce an unbiased criterion for average droplet diameter and density. By extrapolation of the droplet densities, we predict the experimental bulk phase density with a deviation of only a few percent. The hydrogen bond geometry between cations and anions is very similar in droplets and bulk, but the hydrogen bond dynamics is significantly slower in the droplets, becoming slower with increasing system size, with hydrogen bond lifetimes up to 2000 ps. From a normal mode analysis of the trajectories, we identify the modes of the ring proton C-H stretching, which are strongly affected by hydrogen bonding. From analyzing these, we find that the hydrogen bond becomes weaker with increasing system size. The cations possess an increased concentration inside the clusters, whereas the anions show an excess concentration on the outside. Almost all anions point towards the droplet center with their carboxylic groups. Ring stacking is found to be a very important structural motif in the droplets ( as in the bulk), but side chain interactions are only of minor importance. By using Voronoi tessellation, we define the exposed droplet surface and find that it consists mainly of hydrogen atoms from the cation's and anion's methyl and ethyl groups. Polar atoms are rarely found on the surface, such that the droplets appear completely hydrophobic on the outside. Published by AIP Publishing.

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