Influence of humidity on performance and microscopic dynamics of an ionic liquid in supercapacitor

Published in Physical Review Materials, 2017

Abstract: We investigated the influence of water molecules on the diffusion, dynamics, and electrosorption of a room temperature ionic liquid (RTIL), [BMIm+][Tf2N−], confined in carbide-derived carbon with a bimodal nanoporosity. Water molecules in pores improved power densities and rate handling abilities of these materials in supercapacitor electrode configurations. We measured the water-dependent microscopic dynamics of the RTIL cations using quasielastic neutron scatting (QENS). The ionic liquid demonstrated greater mobility with increasing water uptake, facilitated by the nanoporous carbon environment, up to a well-defined saturation point. We concluded that water molecules displaced RTIL ions attached to the pore surfaces and improved the diffusivity of the displaced cations. This effect consequently increased capacitance and rate handling of the electrolyte in water-containing pores. Our findings suggest the possible effect of immiscible co-solvents on energy and power densities of energy storage devices, as well as the operating viability of nonaqueous supercapacitor electrolytes in humid environments.