Acute toxicity of ionic liquids for three freshwater organisms: Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata, Daphnia magna and Danio rerio

Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2009 May;72(4):1170-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2008.09.010. Epub 2008 Oct 29.


The static acute toxicities of 18 ionic liquids (ILs) were determined for three representative freshwater organisms, the cladoceran Daphnia magna, the green alga Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata (formerly known as Selenastrum capricornutum), and the fish Danio rerio (formerly known as zebrafish). The test kit compounds contained three widely used ILs (1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium bis(triflimide), [bmim][Tf(2)N], butylpyridinium bis(triflimide), [bpy][Tf(2)N], and N,N-methylbutylpyrrolidinium bis(triflimide), [bmpyrr][Tf(2)N]) and 15 less common salts. These latter comprised a range of five anions, four positively charged head groups (ammonium, morpholinium, thiophenium, and sulfonium), five 1-methyl-3-alkyl imidazolium derivatives bearing a specific functional group on the longer alkyl chain (Cl, OH, or (CH(3))(3)Si) and three imidazolium derivatives characterized by the presence of a hydrogen atom on the imidazolium nitrogen ("Brønsted acidic imidazolium"-based ILs). Generally, long-chain ammonium salts showed higher toxicity to algae, cladocerans, and fish, whereas very low toxicities characterized sulfonium- and morpholinium-based ILs. In imidazolium-based ILs, the substitution of one or two carbon atoms of the longer alkyl chain with a more electronegative atom (chlorine or oxygen) reduced the acute toxicity for algae and cladocerans. Low toxicity also characterized the "Brønsted acidic imidazolium"-based ILs. Structural information for a rational designer of safer ILs can be obtained from these studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chlorophyta / physiology*
  • Daphnia / physiology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Fresh Water
  • Ions / toxicity*
  • Lethal Dose 50
  • Organic Chemicals / toxicity
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Zebrafish / physiology*


  • Ions
  • Organic Chemicals