Deep eutectic solvents: Sustainable media for nanoscale and functional materials

Durgesh V. Wagle, Hua Zhao, Gary A. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

709 Scopus citations


ConspectusDeep eutectic solvents (DESs) represent an alternative class of ionic fluids closely resembling room-temperature ionic liquids (RTILs), although, strictly speaking, they are distinguished by the fact that they also contain an organic molecular component (typically, a hydrogen bond donor like a urea, amide, acid, or polyol), frequently as the predominant constituent. Practically speaking, DESs are attractive alternatives to RTILs, sharing most of their remarkable qualities (e.g., tolerance to humidity, negligible vapor pressure, thermostability, wide electrochemical potential windows, tunability) while overcoming several limitations associated with their RTIL cousins. Particularly, DESs are typically, less expensive, more synthetically accessible (typically, from bulk commodity chemicals using solvent/waste-free processes), nontoxic, and biodegradable.In this Account, we provide an overview of DESs as designer solvents to create well-defined nanomaterials including shape-controlled nanoparticles, electrodeposited films, metal-organic frameworks, colloidal assemblies, hierarchically porous carbons, and DNA/RNA architectures. These breakthroughs illustrate how DESs can fulfill multiple roles in directing chemistry at the nanoscale: acting as supramolecular template, metal/carbon source, sacrificial agent (e.g., ammonia release from urea), and/or redox agent, all in the absence of formal stabilizing ligand (here, solvent and stabilizer are one and the same).The ability to tailor the physicochemical properties of DESs is central to controlling their interfacial behavior. The preorganized "supramolecular" nature of DESs provides a soft template to guide the formation of bimodal porous carbon networks or the evolution of electrodeposits. A number of essential parameters (viscosity, polarity, surface tension, hydrogen bonding), plus coordination with solutes/surfaces, all play significant roles in modulating species reactivity and mass transport properties governing the genesis of nanostructure. Furthermore, DES components may modulate nucleation and growth mechanisms by charge neutralization, modification of reduction potentials (or chemical activities), and passivation of particular crystal faces, dictating growth along preferred crystallographic directions. Broad operational windows for electrochemical reactions coupled with their inherent ionic nature facilitate the electrodeposition of alloys and semiconductors inaccessible to classical means and the use of cosolvents or applied potential control provide under-explored strategies for mediating interfacial interactions leading to control over film characteristics.The biocompatibility of DESs suggests intriguing potential for the construction of biomolecular architectures in these novel media. It has been demonstrated that nucleic acid structures can be manipulated in the ionic, crowded, dehydrating (low water activity) DES environment-including the adoption of duplex helical structures divergent from the canonical B form and parallel G-quadruplex DNA persisting near waters boiling point-challenging the misconception that water is a necessity for maintenance of nucleic acid structure/functionality and suggesting an enticing trajectory toward DNA/RNA-based nanocatalysis within a strictly anhydrous medium.DESs offer tremendous opportunities and open intriguing perspectives for generating sophisticated nanostructures within an anhydrous or low-water medium. We conclude this Account by offering our thoughts on the evolution of the field, pointing to areas of clear and compelling utility which will surely see fruition in the coming years. Finally, we highlight a few hurdles (e.g., need for a universal nomenclature, absence of water-immiscible, oriented-phase, and low-viscosity DESs) which, once navigated, will hasten progress in this area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2299-2308
Number of pages10
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 19 2014
Externally publishedYes


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