Side-chain effects on the capacitive behaviour of ionic liquids in microporous electrodes

Classical density functional theory (cDFT) is used to investigate electrosorption of ionic liquids in porous electrodes within the framework of a coarse-grained model. The purpose of this study is to clarify the influence of the side alkyl chains of imidazolium cations on the electric double layer (EDL) capacitance that was studied in a number of recent investigations but with contradictory trends. For an ionic liquid near a planar electrode, cDFT predicts that the capacitance falls by extending the alkyl chain length of cations because neutral segments reduce the packing density of counterions thus the charge density. The side-chain effect is more complicated for ionic liquids in micropores owing to space-charge competition. Adding neutral segments to imidazolium cations always reduces the capacitance in cases where the surface electrical potential of micropores is sufficiently large. However, the capacitance shows a nonmonotonic dependence on the alkyl chain length at intermediate surface potentials. Surprisingly, addition of neutral segments to the cations has the most pronounced effect on the EDL capacitance in cases when the surface potential is positively charged. These findings challenge the conventional assumption that the alkyl side chains of imidazolium ions only negatively impact ionic liquid performance in charge storage.