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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/K032062/1
Title: Ionic-Liquid Surface Structure: Informing Applications through Dynamical Measurements
Principal Investigator: McKendrick, Professor KG
Other Investigators:
Slattery, Dr JM Bruce, Professor D Costen, Professor ML
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Sch of Engineering and Physical Science
Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 02 December 2013 Ends: 01 December 2016 Value (£): 618,606
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Catalysis & Applied Catalysis Chemical Structure
Gas & Solution Phase Reactions
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
US Collaborator: Prof T K Minton, Montana State University.

We aim to enhance the fundamental understanding of ionic-liquid (IL) surface structure and to relate this new insight to some key sustainable applications of ILs. Inelastic and reactive scattering of atoms and molecules from liquid surfaces will be developed as a new, chemically specific analytical probe. Two distinct and complementary experimental approaches will be pursued, based on laser-photolysis-laser-spectroscopic probing and molecular-beam scattering. The laser-based method is well matched to higher-throughput screening of surface composition of a range of samples, while molecular-beam scattering will provide additional information on surface structure for selected liquids. In combination, they will probe the degree of surface segregation in custom-synthesized, high-purity ILs of recognized practical interest. The research will proceed in stages of complexity and degree of risk. The first phase will address unanswered structural questions for pure ILs representative of important families of large organic cations combined with a range of anions. The second will investigate surface enrichment in IL mixtures. The third will explore the relationship between the surface structures of IL solutions and their applications in catalysis, through supporting measurements of kinetics and product state distributions. The final phase will enter the uncharted area of the surface properties of liquid-crystalline ILs. The interpretations will be supported throughout by molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and selected QM/MM scattering calculations.

The results will have scientific impact on several levels. We expect to directly influence the future programs of scientists already engaged in closely cognate studies of collision dynamics at liquid or related surfaces. Our results will also be of direct interest to a broader community who have been using other methods to analyze liquid surfaces, or characterizing them through MD simulations. Finally, and most broadly, the results will inform the very large research community working on the synthesis of new ILs and the development of their future applications.

The investigators represent a unique combination of established expertise in the chemical synthesis and catalytic applications of ILs (Slattery and Bruce; York, UK), experimental measurements of scattering dynamics using laser-based (McKendrick and Costen; Heriot-Watt, UK) or molecular-beam (Minton; Montana State, USA) methods, and theoretical modeling of gas-liquid interactions (Schatz; Northwestern, USA). The proposed program is founded on extensive exchanges of staff, broadening their experience and promoting exchanges of ideas and complementary technical expertise.

The fundamental new insight that we will generate is most likely to be exploited through its enabling role in the design and optimization of IL materials for numerous "environmentally friendly" applications. The most direct impact will be on processes involving transport through the gas-liquid interface, including various forms of catalysis. The staff employed will receive an exceptional and unusually diverse training in modern research methods. They will have ample opportunities to develop broader, transferable skills and enjoy the cultural benefits of international exchange, equipping them to contribute to the future growth or creation of high-technology companies. Outreach will be actively promoted through the creation of a new website, and associated YouTube Channels. These will promote both the results of the proposed on ILs and their broader uses in general. Downloadable objects will be suitable for tutorials and other teaching tools. The web site will be hosted at MSU.. It will be populated with material aimed at a number of levels, ranging from the specifically interested scientific experts, through a scientifically-inclined audience, to school (K-12) teachers and the lay public.

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Organisation Website: http://www.hw.ac.uk