The partitioning constants and Gibbs free energies of transfer of poly(oxyethylene) n-alkyl ethers between dodecane and the protic ionic liquids (ILs) ethylammonium nitrate (EAN) and propylammonium nitrate (PAN) are determined. EAN and PAN have a sponge-like nanostructure that consists of interpenetrating charged and apolar domains. This study reveals that the ILs solvate the hydrophobic and hydrophilic parts of the amphiphiles differently. The ethoxy groups are dissolved in the polar region of both ILs by means of hydrogen bonds. The environment is remarkably water-like and, as in water, the solubility of the ethoxy groups in EAN decreases on warming, which underscores the critical role of the IL hydrogen-bond network for solubility. In contrast, amphiphile alkyl chains are not preferentially solvated by the charged or uncharged regions of the ILs. Rather, they experience an average IL composition and, as a result, partitioning from dodecane into the IL increases as the cation alkyl chain is lengthened from ethyl to propyl, because the IL apolar volume fraction increases. Together, these results show that surfactant dissolution in ILs is related to structural compatibility between the head or tail group and the IL nanostructure. Thus, these partitioning studies reveal parameters for the effective molecular design of surfactants in ILs.
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