Adsorbed and near surface structure of ionic liquids at a solid interface
The structure of solid-ionic liquid (IL) interfaces has been characterised with unprecedented clarity by employing a range of atomic force microscopy (AFM) imaging techniques and tip pressures appropriate for the system under study. Soft contact and amplitude-modulation (AM) AFM imaging have been used to elucidate the lateral structure of ILs adsorbed onto mica, and in the near surface ion layers. Data is presented for ethylammonium nitrate (EAN) and 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium bis(trifluoro-methylsulfonyl)imide (EMIm TFSI). Whereas EAN is a protic IL that forms a nanostructured sponge phase in the bulk, EMIm TFSI is aprotic and has weak (or absent) bulk association structure. Comparison of results obtained for the two liquids elucidates how the strength of bulk liquid morphology effects lateral organisation at the surface, and any effect of IL class, i.e. protic versus aprotic. Imaging reveals EAN self assembles at the solid surface in a worm-like morphology, whereas EMIm cations adsorb in a more isolated fashion, but still in rows templated by the mica surface. To the authors' knowledge, the wormlike structures present at the EAN-mica interface are the smallest self-assembled aggregates ever imaged on a solid surface.