• reaction monitoring;
  • surface science;
  • ionic liquids;
  • X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy;
  • zwitterions


We demonstrate the application of in situ X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) to monitor organic, liquid-phase reactions. By covalently attaching ionic head groups to the reacting organic molecules, their volatility can be reduced such that they withstand ultra high vacuum conditions. The applied method, which is new for the investigation of organic reactions, allows for following the fate of all elements present in the reaction mixture—except for hydrogen—in a quantitative and oxidation-state-sensitive manner in one experiment. This concept is demonstrated for the alkylation of a tertiary amine attached to an imidazolium or phosphonium moiety by the anion 4-chlorobutylsulfonate ([ClC4H8SO3]). In the course of the reaction, the covalently bound chlorine is converted to chloride and the amine to ammonium as reflected by the distinct shifts in the N 1s and Cl 2p binding energies.