One of the Distinctive Properties of Ionic Liquids over Molecular Solvents and Inorganic Salts: Enhanced Basicity Stemming from the Electrostatic Environment and “Free” Microstructure

The basicity of ionic liquids (ILs) underlies many important IL-based processes including the dissolution and conversion of cellulose, the capture of CO2, and metal catalysis. In this work, we have disclosed the nature of the basicity of ILs, i.e., the difference between the basicity of IL and the basicity of the molecular solvent and inorganic salt, through a quantitative electrostatic and electronic analysis of the molecular surface for the first time. The results reveal one of the distinctive properties of ILs (enhanced basicity over molecular solvents and inorganic salts with the same basic site) stemming from their special electrostatic environment and microstructure. The enhancement is significant, from either the electrostatic aspect or the covalent aspect of basicity. The peculiar electrostatic environment of ILs leads to stronger basicity than similar molecular solvents, and the relatively freer microstructure of ILs contributes to the enhancement of basicity over their inorganic analogues. These results are highly instructive for better understanding the unique value of ILs and designing novel ILs to improve the efficiency of basicity-related processes.