Molecular origin of high free energy barriers for alkali metal ion transfer through ionic liquid–graphene electrode interfaces

Vladislav Ivanistsev, Trinidad Méndez-Morales, Ruth M. Lynden-Bell, Luis M. Varela, Oscar Cabeza, Luis J. Gallego, Luis M. Varela, Maxim V. Fedorov

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In this work we study mechanisms of solvent-mediated ion interactions with charged surfaces in ionic liquids by molecular dynamics simulations, in an attempt to reveal the main trends that determine ion–electrode interactions in ionic liquids. We compare the interfacial behaviour of Li+ and K+ at a charged graphene sheet in a room temperature ionic liquid, 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium tetrafluoroborate, and its mixtures with lithium and potassium tetrafluoroborate salts. Our results show that there are dense interfacial solvation structures in these electrolytes that lead to the formation of high free energy barriers for these alkali metal cations between the bulk and direct contact with the negatively charged surface. We show that the stronger solvation of Li+ in the ionic liquid leads to the formation of significantly higher interfacial free energy barriers for Li+ than for K+. The high free energy barriers observed in our simulations can explain the generally high interfacial resistance in electrochemical storage devices that use ionic liquid-based electrolytes. Overcoming these barriers is the rate-limiting step in the interfacial transport of alkali metal ions and, hence, appears to be a major drawback for a generalised application of ionic liquids in electrochemistry. Some plausible strategies for future theoretical and experimental work for tuning them are suggested.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1302-1310
Number of pages9
JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics
Issue number2
Early online date26 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2016


  • ion interactions
  • graphene electrode interfaces
  • electrochemical storage
  • energy barriers


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