Self-Assembled Solute Networks in Crowded Electrolyte Solutions and Nanoconfinement of Charged Redoxmer Molecules

Ilya A Shkrob, Tao Li, Erik Sarnello, Lily A Robertson, Yuyue Zhao, Hossam Farag, Zhou Yu, Jingjing Zhang, Sambasiva R Bheemireddy, Y Z, Rajeev S Assary, Randy H Ewoldt, Lei Cheng, Lu Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Redoxmers are electrochemically active organic molecules storing charge and energy in electrolyte fluids circulating through redox flow batteries (RFBs). Such molecules typically have solvent-repelling cores and solvent-attracting pendant groups introduced to increase solubility in liquid electrolytes. These two features can facilitate nanoscale aggregation of the redoxmer molecules in crowded solutions. In some cases, this aggregation leads to the emergence of continuous networks of solute molecules in contact, and the solution becomes microscopically heterogeneous. Here, we use small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and molecular dynamics modeling to demonstrate formation of such networks and examine structural factors controlling this self-assembly. We also show that salt ions become excluded from these solute aggregates into small pockets of electrolytes, where these ions strongly associate. This confinement by exclusion is also likely to occur to charged redoxmer molecules in a "sea" of neutral precursors coexisting in the same solution. Here, we demonstrate that the decay lifetime of the confined charged molecules in such solutions can increase several fold compared to dilute solutions. We attribute this behavior to a "microreactor effect" on reverse reactions of the confined species during their decomposition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalThe journal of physical chemistry. B
DOIs
StateE-pub ahead of print - Oct 29 2020

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