X-ray Reflectivity Study of Ionic Liquids at Electrified Surfaces

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X-ray reflectivity (XRR) versatile technique that characterize the surface structures. However, due to the lack of phase information of X-ray data, the reconstruction of electron density profile (EDP) from XRR data is an ill-posed inverse problem that requires extra attention. In Chapter 1, several key concepts in XRR data analysis are reviewed. The typical XRR data acquisition procedure and methods of modeling electron density are introduced. The widely used logarithm form of merit function is justified with mathematical deduction and numerical experiment. A scheme that generates artificial reflectivity data with theoretical statistical error but not systematical error is proposed. With the methods and schemes described in Chapter 1, simulated reflectivity data of a simple one-slab model is generated and fitted to test the efficient of EDP reconstruction. By isolating the parameters, the effects of slab width, electron density contrast and maximal wave transfer are studied individually. It?s demonstrated that best-fit/global minima, result reported by most XRR studies, don?t necessary reflect the real EDP. By contrast, mapping the merit function in the parametric space can capture much more details. Additionally, the widely accepted concept about the XRR theoretical spatial resolution ($\pi/q_{max}$) as well the using Patterson function are brought to test. In the perspective of XRR data analysis, this chapter puts forward general rules to design and optimize XRR experiments. It also demonstrates how susceptible the fitting result will be if it?s not done carefully. In Chapter 3, the interface between hydrophobic OTS film and several solvents is studied with XRR in a transmission-cell setup. The solvents, from water, acetone, to alcohol (methanol, ethanol, 1-propanol), to alkane (pentane, hexane and heptane), vary significantly in terms of polarity and hydrogen bonding. However, the XRR data from different solvents are subtle. The methods and principles elicited in previous chapters are employed to extract information about the solid-liquid interface. Electron density depletion due to methyl terminal of solvent molecules (methyl gap) and due to the reduced surface density compared to the bulk density (density gap) are analyzed. In the next Chapter, XRR technique is employed to study the structures and dynamics of room temperature ionic liquids (RTILs) at an electrified surface. RTILs are molten salts at room temperature, consisted purely by anions and cations, with potential applications in energy storage, electro-synthesis, electrodeposition etc. The solvent-free and high charge concentrated novel liquids process many unique properties that not seen in normal dilute salt solution. It is predicted that when a surface isn?t highly charged, RTILs form alternating layers of anion/cation to screen the surface charge; when it?s highly charged, a crowding layer with ions with like charge forms. The alternating structure has been observed experimentally but not the crowding layer. Following the rules of optimization XRR experiment in Chapter 2, conductive silicon which has small electron density is used which maximize the EDP contrast. This makes it possible to directly observe the formation of crowding layer. The thickness of this crowding layer, charge distributions and compositions as a function of applied voltage. The dynamics of anion/cation reorganization in RTILs determine the power density for RTILs? energy application. In Chapter 5, the time-dependence of the formation and dissipation of the crowding layer is studied with XRR. An ultra-slow dynamic, much longer than the typical RC time constant, is revealed. Comparisons with theoretical predications and experiments studies are made in order to understand the origin of this process.

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  • 03/12/2018
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