Ionic Liquids Project Continues Back to archive
3rd November 2017

Since March a group of Benenden students have been working on a Chemistry project in conjunction with the Chemistry Department of University College London (UCL). They have been synthesising and testing ionic liquids in our Chemistry labs and recording the data obtained.

This data will be utilised by Dr Robert Palgrave, a senior lecturer in the Chemistry department of UCL, who is investigating the properties of ionic liquids and their potential uses in industry.

In order for the students to carry out more in-depth analysis of their synthesised samples, using state-of-the-art techniques and equipment not available to us in the School environment, we were invited to visit UCL’s Chemistry Department to continue the project.

On arrival at UCL we were given a lecture by Dr Palgrave highlighting how we could potentially progress our investigations onto the next level and students were invited to get actively involved in a Q and A session regarding the chemistry behind the project.

After lunch we were shown how to use the university’s mass spectroscopy equipment. Mass spectrometry is an analytical technique that ionizes chemical species and sorts the ions based on their mass-to-charge ratio. Each girl had an attempt at analysing their samples and they were also shown how to interpret and read the results printouts.

Next on the agenda was the amazing Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Lab (NMR). This is a research technique that exploits the magnetic properties of certain atomic nuclei. This determines the physical and chemical properties of atoms, or the molecules in which they are contained. We were treated to a display of how samples are analysed using state of the art machinery.

The girls were all fascinated by our next stop, the Scanning Electron Microscope suite. Here post-graduate students were investigating the structure of compounds at an atomic level. We could actually see the single atoms of a sample in great detail, hard to believe that what we were looking at would fit into the eye of a needle 100,000 times.

One the train on the way home, the students were buzzing with new ideas for their continued investigations into ionic liquids in the Benenden labs, the enthusiasm and excitement generated by the visit will not be forgotten for a long time to come.

Thank you to the UCL Chemistry Department for a wonderful and inspirational day.

What are ionic liquids?

An ionic liquid is a salt in the liquid state. They are largely made of ions and short-lived ion pairs, this compares to ordinary liquids, such as gas and water, which are predominantly made of electrically neutral molecules.

Ionic liquids are known as ‘solvents of the future’ and are described as having many potential applications. They are powerful solvents and electrically conducting fluids and are important for electric battery applications and have been considered as sealants due to their very low vapour pressure.