Revealing the interfacial nanostructure of a deep eutectic solvent at a solid electrode


Deep eutectic solvents (DESs) are both green and sustainable, making them an increasingly attractive alternative to conventional solvents. One of their applications is the electrochemical deposition of metals that cannot be deposited from aqueous solution because of the limited electrochemical window of water. The electrodeposition process is influenced by the structure and dynamics of the solvent at the solid–liquid interface. Therefore,the nanoscale structure of the interface between a silicon substrate and deep eutectic solvent (choline chloride–ethylene glycol) was studied by neutron reflectometry (NR) and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. It is not possible to model NR measurements of this system without simulating a dense DES layer at the solid–liquid interface. This study used an MD simulation trajectory to extract the density, thickness, and roughness of this DES layer. With this input, the model reproduces the reflectometry data at all measured H/D contrasts very well. The thickness of the layer does not change appreciably when applying charge or at higher temperatures. Further analysis revealed a reorganization of ions and reorientation of the choline cations in the interface layer when the electrodes are charged. These changes in ion orientation are not observed with the NR technique since they do not influence the neutron scattering length density profile due to the high number of ethylene glycol molecules at the interface. However, the agreement between measured neutron reflectometry data and model parameters obtained from MD simulations justified subnanoscale analysis of the MD trajectory and confirmed that these two complementary techniques can be successfully combined to reveal the solid/DES interface structure.
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