Prediction of the formation and stabilities of energetic salts and ionic liquids based on ab initio electronic structure calculations

K.E. Gutowski, John Holbrey, R.D. Rogers, D.A. Dixon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Citations (Scopus)


A computational approach to predict the thermodynamics for forming a variety of imidazolium-based salts and ionic liquids from typical starting materials is described. The gas-phase proton and methyl cation acidities of several protonating and methylating agents, as well as the proton and methyl cation affinities of many important methyl-, nitro-, and cyano- substituted imidazoles, have been calculated reliably by using the computationally feasible DFT (B3LYP) and MP2 (extrapolated to the complete basis set limit) methods. These accurately calculated proton and methyl cation affinities of neutrals and anions are used in conjunction with an empirical approach based on molecular volumes to estimate the lattice enthalpies and entropies of ionic liquids, organic solids, and organic liquids. These quantities were used to construct a thermodynamic cycle for salt formation to reliably predict the ability to synthesize a variety of salts including ones with potentially high energetic densities. An adjustment of the gas phase thermodynamic cycle to account for solid- and liquid-phase chemistries provides the best overall assessment of salt formation and stability. This has been applied to imidazoles (the cation to be formed) with alkyl, nitro, and cyano substituents. The proton and methyl cation donors studied were as follows: HCl, HBr, HI, (HO)(2)SO2, HSO3CF3 (TfOH), and HSO3(C6H4)CH3 (TsOH); CH3Cl, CH3Br, CH3I, (CH3O)(2)SO2, CH3SO3CF3 (TfOCH3) and CH3SO3(C6H4)CH3 (TsOCH3). As substitution of the cation with electron-withdrawing groups increases, the triflate reagents appear to be the best overall choice as protonating and methylating agents. Even stronger alkylating agents should be considered to enhance the chances of synthetic success. When using the enthalpies of reaction for the gas-phase reactants (eq 6) to form a salt, a cutoff value of - 13 kcal mol(-1) or lower (more negative) should be used as the minimum value for predicting whether a salt can be synthesized.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23196-23208
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number49
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Prediction of the formation and stabilities of energetic salts and ionic liquids based on ab initio electronic structure calculations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this