Potential Dependence of the Ionic Structure at the Ionic Liquid/water Interface Studied Using MD Simulation
The structure at the electrochemical liquid/liquid interface between water (W) and trioctylmethylammonium bis (nonafluorobutanesulfonyl)amide, a hydrophobic ionic liquid (IL), was studied using molecular dynamics (MD) simulation in which the interfacial potential difference was controlled. On the IL side of the IL|W interface, ionic multilayers were found in the number density distribution of IL ions whereas monolayer-thick charge accumulation was found in the charge density distribution. This suggests that the potential screening is completed within the first ionic layer and the effect of overlayers on the potential is marginal. The W side of the interface showed the diffuse electric double layer as expected, and also unveiled a density depletion layer, indicating that the IL surface is hydrophobic enough to be repelled by water. The IL ions in the first ionic layer showed anisotropic orientation even at the potential of zero charge, in which the polar moieties were oriented to the W side and the non-polar moieties preferred parallel to the interface. When an electric field is applied across the interface so that the IL ions are more accumulated, the non-polar moieties changed the parallel preference to more oriented to the IL side due to the dipolar nature of the IL ions. The ionic orientations at the IL|W interface were compared with those at other two IL interfaces, the vacuum and graphene interfaces of the IL. The parallel preference of the non-polar moieties was similar at the IL|graphene interface but different from the perpendicular orientation toward the vacuum side at the IL|vacuum interface. The comparison suggests that water behaves like a wall repelling IL ions like a solid electrode.