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Thermal Decomposition Mechanisms of Alkylimidazolium Ionic Liquids with Cyano-Functionalized Anions

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Because of the unusually high heats of vaporization of room-temperature ionic liquids (RTILs), volatilization of RTILs through thermal decomposition and vaporization of the decomposition products can be significant. Upon heating of cyano-functionalized anionic RTILs in vacuum, their gaseous products were detected experimentally via tunable vacuum ultraviolet photoionization mass spectrometry performed at the Chemical Dynamics Beamline 9.0.2 at the Advanced Light Source. Experimental evidence for di- and trialkylimidazolium cations and cyano-functionalized anionic RTILs confirms thermal decomposition occurs primarily through two pathways: deprotonation of the cation by the anion and dealkylation of the imidazolium cation by the anion. Secondary reactions include possible cyclization of the cation and C2 substitution on the imidazolium, and their proposed reaction mechanisms are introduced here. Additional evidence supporting these mechanisms was obtained using thermal gravimetric analysis-mass spectrometry, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, and temperature-jump infrared spectroscopy. In order to predict the overall thermal stability in these ionic liquids, the ability to accurately calculate both the basicity of the anions and their nucleophilicity in the ionic liquid is critical. Both gas phase and condensed phase (generic ionic liquid (GIL) model) density functional theory calculations support the decomposition mechanisms, and the GIL model could provide a highly accurate means to determine thermal stabilities for ionic liquids in general.

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