Research in the Davis Group

Ionic Liquids

Our group is known for its activity in the area of ionic liquids (ILs). Ionic liquids are simply salts that melt at low temperatures, “low” usually being construed to be < 100 oC.  Because of the Coulombic nature of the interactions between their component ions, ILs commonly have little-to-no vapor pressure, meaning that they don’t evaporate.  This combination – liquidity without evaporation – is rare and technologically valuable.  In fact, the perceived utility of ILs in a host of practical applications has driven the intense pace of research dealing with them over the past 15 years. In that time frame, some 56,000 papers, patents, and abstracts involving them have been published.

A particular contribution made by our group to the development of the field has been in the introduction of functionalized or “task-specific” ionic liquids.  ILs of this type have, within their cation or anion structure (or both), an organic functional group that allows them to interact with other molecules in a specific fashion. Perhaps the most well-known of these are ILs with amine groups, which are now being heavily investigated as materials for the capture of CO2 from power plants and other anthropogenic CO2 sources.

Our main thrust areas at the moment involve ongoing work to use ILs as aids in chemical separations, especially those involving gasses.  Our gas separation activity is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and Chevron, and involves collaborative work with Professor Kevin West of the USA Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering.  Another area of particular interest to us involves the development of ionic liquids with very high degrees of thermal stability.  This work, currently supported by a seed grant from the Petroleum Research Fund, is aimed at facilitating the use of ILs in high heat stress environments, such as in thermal fluids and machine lubrication.  Already our activities have resulted in the development of the most long-term heat-stable ILs described to date.

A very recent addition to our research portfolio involves the identification, isolation, and characterization of naturally occurring ionic liquids. We recently made the first identification and characterization of a naturally occurring IL, and our paper describing this finding has now been published in ‘Angewandte Chemie International Edition.’ In just a short time this work has stirred considerable interest, and news of it has been carried in venues that include ‘Nature’, ‘NOVA’, ‘Chemical & Engineering News’, ‘Chemistry World’, and ‘Popular Science’, among others. - See more at:

Davis Group in the News

“Thermally Stable Ionic Liquids” Tribology & Lubrication Technology, November 2013, 8-9.

“Ionic Liquids Stable at High Temps” Chemical & Engineering News, August 12, 2013, p. 27.

“Improvements Bring Carbon Capture Method Nearer” Earth Times, March 26, 2012,

“New twist on 1930s technology may become a 21st century weapon against global warming” ACS Press Office, March 26, 2012. See the interview: :  See the press release:

“New Chains for Ionic Liquids” Chemical & Engineering News, March 15, 2010, p. 11.

“Ionic Liquids Make Splash in Industry” Chemical & Engineering News, August 1, 2005.

"Saccharine Solution to a Toxic Problem." Chemistry World, April, 2004, p. 15.

“Sweeteners for Ionic Liquids” Chemical & Engineering News, March 15, 2004, p. 10.

“Scrubbing Task for Ionic Liquids” Chemical & Engineering News, February 11, 2002, p. 8.

“Ionic liquids: An industrial cleanup solution” Environmental Science & Technology October 1, 2001 pp 410 A–413 A.

“Faster, Better, Cleaner? New liquids take aim at old-fashioned chemistry” Science News, September 8, 2001.

“Environmental Solutions” Scientific American, August 2001.

“With a Splash of Salt, Industry May Reap Environmental Advantages” The New York Times, April 24, 2001.

“Ionic Liquids in a Renewable Ferment” Chemical & Engineering News, April 2, 2001.

“New Horizons for Ionic Liquids” Chemical & Engineering News, January 1, 2001.

“Ionische Flüssigkeiten – innovative Lösungsmittel” Nachrichten aus der Deutscher Chemiker, January 2001.

“Eyes on Ionic Liquids” Chemical & Engineering News, May 15, 2000.