Particle self-assembly at ionic liquid-based interfaces

Denzil S. Frost, Elizabeth M. Nofen, Lenore Dai

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


This review presents an overview of the nature of ionic liquid (IL)-based interfaces and self-assembled particle morphologies of IL-in-water, oil- and water-in-IL, and novel IL-in-IL Pickering emulsions with emphasis on their unique phenomena, by means of experimental and computational studies. In IL-in-water Pickering emulsions, particles formed monolayers at ionic liquid-water interfaces and were close-packed on fully covered emulsion droplets or aggregated on partially covered droplets. Interestingly, other than equilibrating at the ionic liquid-water interfaces, microparticles with certain surface chemistries were extracted into the ionic liquid phase with a high efficiency. These experimental findings were supported by potential of mean force calculations, which showed large energy drops as hydrophobic particles crossed the interface into the IL phase. In the oil- and water-in-IL Pickering emulsions, microparticles with acidic surface chemistries formed monolayer bridges between the internal phase droplets rather than residing at the oil/water-ionic liquid interfaces, a significant deviation from traditional Pickering emulsion morphology. Molecular dynamics simulations revealed aspects of the mechanism behind this bridging phenomenon, including the role of the droplet phase, surface chemistry, and inter-particle film. Novel IL-in-IL Pickering emulsions exhibited an array of self-assembled morphologies including the previously observed particle absorption and bridging phenomena. The appearance of these morphologies depended on the particle surface chemistry as well as the ILs used. The incorporation of particle self-assembly with ionic liquid science allows for new applications at the intersection of these two fields, and have the potential to be numerous due to the tunability of the ionic liquids and particles incorporated, as well as the particle morphology by combining certain groups of particle surface chemistry, IL type (protic or aprotic), and whether oil or water is incorporated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)92-105
Number of pages14
JournalAdvances in Colloid and Interface Science
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • Ionic liquid
  • Molecular dynamics simulation
  • Nanoparticles
  • Pickering emulsion
  • Self-assembly

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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