Ionic Liquids as Electrolytes for Electrochemical Double-Layer Capacitors: Structures that Optimize Specific Energy

Maral P.S. Mousavi, Benjamin E. Wilson, Sadra Kashefolgheta, Evan L. Anderson, Siyao He, Phil Buhlmann, Andreas Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Scopus citations


Key parameters that influence the specific energy of electrochemical double-layer capacitors (EDLCs) are the double-layer capacitance and the operating potential of the cell. The operating potential of the cell is generally limited by the electrochemical window of the electrolyte solution, that is, the range of applied voltages within which the electrolyte or solvent is not reduced or oxidized. Ionic liquids are of interest as electrolytes for EDLCs because they offer relatively wide potential windows. Here, we provide a systematic study of the influence of the physical properties of ionic liquid electrolytes on the electrochemical stability and electrochemical performance (double-layer capacitance, specific energy) of EDLCs that employ a mesoporous carbon model electrode with uniform, highly interconnected mesopores (3DOm carbon). Several ionic liquids with structurally diverse anions (tetrafluoroborate, trifluoromethanesulfonate, trifluoromethanesulfonimide) and cations (imidazolium, ammonium, pyridinium, piperidinium, and pyrrolidinium) were investigated. We show that the cation size has a significant effect on the electrolyte viscosity and conductivity, as well as the capacitance of EDLCs. Imidazolium- and pyridinium-based ionic liquids provide the highest cell capacitance, and ammonium-based ionic liquids offer potential windows much larger than imidazolium and pyridinium ionic liquids. Increasing the chain length of the alkyl substituents in 1-alkyl-3-methylimidazolium trifluoromethanesulfonimide does not widen the potential window of the ionic liquid. We identified the ionic liquids that maximize the specific energies of EDLCs through the combined effects of their potential windows and the double-layer capacitance. The highest specific energies are obtained with ionic liquid electrolytes that possess moderate electrochemical stability, small ionic volumes, low viscosity, and hence high conductivity, the best performing ionic liquid tested being 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium bis(trifluoromethylsulfonyl)imide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3396-3406
Number of pages11
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 10 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Chemical Society.


  • anodic limit
  • cathodic limit
  • electrochemical double-layer capacitor
  • electrochemical stability
  • ionic liquid


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