Bimolecular electron transfer in ionic liquids: Are reaction rates anomalously high?

Min Liang, Anne Kaintz, Gary A. Baker, Mark Maroncelli

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67 Scopus citations


Steady-state and picosecond time-resolved emission spectroscopy are used to monitor the bimolecular electron transfer reaction between the electron acceptor 9,10-dicyanoanthracene in its S1 state and the donor N,N-dimethylaniline in a variety of ionic liquids and several conventional solvents. Detailed study of this quenching reaction was undertaken in order to better understand why rates reported for similar diffusion-limited reactions in ionic liquids sometimes appear much higher than expected given the viscous nature of these liquids. Consistent with previous studies, Stern-Volmer analyses of steady-state and lifetime data provide effective quenching rate constants kq, which are often 10-100-fold larger than simple predictions for diffusion-limited rate constants kD in ionic liquids. Similar departures from kD are also observed in conventional organic solvents having comparably high viscosities, indicating that this behavior is not unique to ionic liquids. A more complete analysis of the quenching data using a model combining approximate solution of the spherically symmetric diffusion equation with a Marcus-type description of electron transfer reveals the reasons for frequent observation of kq ≫ kD. The primary cause is that the high viscosities typical of ionic liquids emphasize the transient component of diffusion-limited reactions, which renders the interpretation of rate constants derived from Stern-Volmer analyses ambiguous. Using a more appropriate description of the quenching process enables satisfactory fits of data in both ionic liquid and conventional solvents using a single set of physically reasonable electron transfer parameters. Doing so requires diffusion coefficients in ionic liquids to exceed hydrodynamic predictions by significant factors, typically in the range of 3-10. Direct, NMR measurements of solute diffusion confirm this enhanced diffusion in ionic liquids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1370-1384
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Materials Chemistry


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