Ion pairing and phase behaviour of an asymmetric restricted primitive model of ionic liquids

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An asymmetric restricted primitive model (ARPM) of electrolytes is proposed as a simple three parameter (charge q, diameter d, and charge displacement b) model of ionic liquids and solutions. Charge displacement allows electrostatic and steric interactions to operate between different centres, so that orientational correlations arise in ion-ion interactions. In this way the ionic system may have partly the character of a simple ionic fluid/solid and of a polar fluid formed from ion pairs. The present exploration of the system focuses on the ion pair formation mechanism, the relative concentration of paired and free ions and the consequences for the cohesive energy, and the tendency to form fluid or solid phase. In contrast to studies of similar (though not identical) models in the past, we focus on behaviours at room temperature. By MC and MD simulations of such systems composed of monovalent ions of hard-sphere (or essentially hard-sphere) diameter equal to 5 Å and a charge displacement ranging from 0 to 2 Å from the hard-sphere origin, we find that ion pairing dominates for b larger than 1 Å. When b exceeds about 1.5 Å, the system is essentially a liquid of dipolar ion pairs with a small presence of free ions. We also investigate dielectric behaviours of corresponding liquids, composed of purely dipolar species. Many basic features of ionic liquids appear to be remarkably consistent with those of our ARPM at ambient conditions, when b is around 1 Å. However, the rate of self-diffusion and, to a lesser extent, conductivity is overestimated, presumably due to the simple spherical shape of our ions in the ARPM. The relative simplicity of our ARPM in relation to the rich variety of new mechanisms and properties it introduces, and to the numerical simplicity of its exploration by theory or simulation, makes it an essential step on the way towards representation of the full complexity of ionic liquids.


  • Hongduo Lu
  • Bin Li
  • 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

  • Physical Chemistry
Original languageEnglish
Article number234510
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Dec 21
Publication categoryResearch

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