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Understanding Ionic Liquids at the Molecular Level: Facts, Problems, and Controversies



Ionic liquids (ILs) are organic salts with melting points near room temperature (or by convention below 100 °C). Recently, their unique materials and solvent properties and the growing interest in a sustainable, “green” chemistry has led to an amazing increase in interest in such salts. A huge number of potential cation and anion families and their many substitution patterns allows the desired properties for specific applications to be selected. Because it is impossible to experimentally investigate even a small fraction of the potential cation–anion combinations, a molecular-based understanding of their properties is crucial. However, the unusual complexity of their intermolecular interactions renders molecular-based interpretations difficult, and gives rise to many controversies, speculations, and even myths about the properties that ILs allegedly possess. Herein the current knowledge about the molecular foundations of IL behavior is discussed.