The importance of ion size and electrode curvature on electrical double layers in ionic liquids

Guang Feng, Rui Qiao, Jingsong Huang, Sheng Dai, Bobby G. Sumpter, Vincent Meunier

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163 Scopus citations


Room-temperature ionic liquids (ILs) are an emerging class of electrolytes for supercapacitors. We investigate the effects of ion size and electrode curvature on the electrical double layers (EDLs) in two ILs 1-butyl-3- methylimidazolium chloride [BMIM][Cl] and 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium hexafluorophosphate [BMIM][PF6], using a combination of molecular dynamics (MD) and quantum density functional theory (DFT) simulations. The sizes of the counter-ion and co-ion affect the ion distribution and orientational structure of EDLs. The EDL capacitances near both planar and cylindrical electrodes were found to follow the order: [BMIM][Cl] (near the positive electrode) > [BMIM][PF6] (near the positive electrode) ≈ [BMIM][Cl] (near the negative electrode) ≈ [BMIM][PF6] (near the negative electrode). The EDL capacitance was also found to increase as the electrode curvature increases. These capacitance data can be fit to the Helmholtz model and the recently proposed exohedral electrical double-cylinder capacitor (xEDCC) model when the EDL thickness is properly parameterized, even though key features of the EDLs in ILs are not accounted for in these models. To remedy the shortcomings of existing models, we propose a "Multiple Ion Layers with Overscreening" (MILO) model for the EDLs in ILs that takes into account two critical features of such EDLs, i.e., alternating layering of counter-ions and co-ions and charge overscreening. The capacitance computed from the MILO model agrees well with the MD prediction. Although some input parameters of the MILO model must be obtained from MD simulations, the MILO model may provide a new framework for understanding many important aspects of EDLs in ILs (e.g., the variation of EDL capacitance with the electrode potential) that are difficult to interpret using classical EDL models and experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1152-1161
Number of pages10
JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 21 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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