Dissolving Cellulose in 1,2,3-Triazolium- and Imidazolium-Based Ionic Liquids with Aromatic Anions

Molecules. 2020 Aug 2;25(15):3539. doi: 10.3390/molecules25153539.


We present 1,2,3-triazolium- and imidazolium-based ionic liquids (ILs) with aromatic anions as a new class of cellulose solvents. The two anions in our study, benzoate and salicylate, possess a lower basicity when compared to acetate and therefore should lead to a lower amount of N-heterocyclic carbenes (NHCs) in the ILs. We characterize their physicochemical properties and find that all of them are liquids at room temperature. By applying force field molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, we investigate the structure and dynamics of the liquids and find strong and long-lived hydrogen bonds, as well as significant π-π stacking between the aromatic anion and cation. Our ILs dissolve up to 8.5 wt.-% cellulose. Via NMR spectroscopy of the solution, we rule out chain degradation or derivatization, even after several weeks at elevated temperature. Based on our MD simulations, we estimate the enthalpy of solvation and derive a simple model for semi-quantitative prediction of cellulose solubility in ILs. With the help of Sankey diagrams, we illustrate the hydrogen bond network topology of the solutions, which is characterized by competing hydrogen bond donors and acceptors. The hydrogen bonds between cellulose and the anions possess average lifetimes in the nanosecond range, which is longer than found in common pure ILs.

Keywords: carbenes; cellulose; enthalpy of solvation; ionic liquids; molecular dynamics; solubility prediction; solvent; triazolium.

MeSH terms

  • Anions / chemistry*
  • Cellulose / chemistry*
  • Hydrogen Bonding
  • Imidazoles / chemistry*
  • Ionic Liquids / chemistry*
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Molecular Structure
  • Solubility
  • Solvents / chemistry
  • Triazoles / chemistry*


  • Anions
  • Imidazoles
  • Ionic Liquids
  • Solvents
  • Triazoles
  • Cellulose