Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energys Brookhaven National Laboratory are using a very small and light ion, the electron, to study the structure and dynamics of ionic liquids and how those properties influence chemical reactivity.
Ionic liquids are made of positive and negative ions that pack so poorly together that they are liquids near room temperature. They offer extremely low volatility, non-flammability, new reactivity patterns, and the formation of separate phases that allow the easy separation of products -- properties that make them safer to work with, easier to recycle, and less likely to pollute the atmosphere than traditional solvents.
Brookhaven chemist James Wishart and postdoctoral research associate Alison Funston use pulsed electron beams to initiate chemical reactions in ionic liquids, causing some of the ions to give up one of their own electrons. The isolated electrons can exist for hundreds of nanoseconds surrounded by solvent. Systematic variation of ionic liquid composition shows that solvated electron absorption spectra depend strongly on the structure of the ionic liquid and on the presence of functional groups such as hydroxyl groups.
Karen McNulty Walsh | EurekAlert!
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