A classical density functional theory for the asymmetric restricted primitive model of ionic liquids

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A new three-parameter (valency, ion size, and charge asymmetry) model, the asymmetric restricted primitive model (ARPM) of ionic liquids, has recently been proposed. Given that ionic liquids generally are composed of monovalent species, the ARPM effectively reduces to a two-parameter model. Monte Carlo (MC) simulations have demonstrated that the ARPM is able to reproduce key properties of room temperature ionic liquids (RTILs) in bulk and at charged surfaces. The relatively modest complexity of the model raises the possibility, which is explored here, that a classical density functional theory (DFT) could resolve its properties. This is relevant because it might generate great improvements in terms of both numerical efficiency and understanding in the continued research of RTILs and their applications. In this report, a DFT for rod-like molecules is proposed as an approximate theoretical tool for an ARPM fluid. Borrowing data on the ion pair fraction from a single bulk simulation, the ARPM is modelled as a mixture of dissociated ions and connected ion pairs. We have specifically studied an ARPM where the hard-sphere diameter is 5 Å, with the charge located 1 Å from the hard-sphere centre. We focus on fluid structure and electrochemical behaviour of this ARPM fluid, into which a model electrode is immersed. The latter is modelled as a perfect conductor, and surface polarization is handled by the method of image charges. Approximate methods, which were developed in an earlier study, to take image interactions into account, are also incorporated in the DFT. We make direct numerical comparisons between DFT predictions and corresponding simulation data. The DFT theory is implemented both in the normal mean field form with respect to the electrostatic interactions and in a correlated form based on hole formation by both steric repulsions and ion-ion Coulomb interactions. The results clearly show that ion-ion correlations play a very important role in the screening of the charged surfaces by our ARPM ionic liquid. We have studied electrostatic potentials and ion density profiles as well the differential capacitance. The mean-field DFT fails to reproduce these properties, but the inclusion of ion-ion correlation by a simple approximate treatment yields quite reasonable agreement with the corresponding simulation results. An interesting finding is that there appears to be a surface phase transition at relatively low surface charge which is readily explored by DFT, but seen also in the MC simulations at somewhat higher asymmetry.


  • Hongduo Lu
  • Sture Nordholm
  • Clifford E. Woodward
  • Jan Forsman
External organisations
  • University of Gothenburg
  • University of New South Wales
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Theoretical Chemistry
Original languageEnglish
Article number193814
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 2018 May 21
Publication categoryResearch