The development of suitable separation technologies for the separation of carbon dioxide is a pressing technological requirement. The application of ion gel membranes for this purpose continues to stimulate a great deal of research, and in this study we focus on the chemical structure of the ionic liquid component in the ion gel, and its interactions with the sulfonated polyimide polymer. Whilst such membranes are known to give promising carbon dioxide separation properties together with mechanical strength and thin-film-processability, we further elaborate on how changing the cation of the ionic liquid from a typical imidazolium cation to a protic variant effects the physicochemical, thermal, and structural properties of the membranes, and how these changes further influence the carbon dioxide separation properties. We compare and contrast our findings with our earlier study on protic and aprotic ammonium-based ionic liquids, and highlight that for CO2
absorption behavior in the imidazolium systems, the importance of directionality of interactions (ion pairs exhibit a large energy stabilization only for a specific geometrical arrangement of cation and anion, e.g., hydrogen bonding rather than Coulombic interaction) between cation and anion applies not only to the protic system, but also to the nominally aprotic cation. Finally, we demonstrate that the phase separation behavior in the ion gels is an important factor in determining the carbon dioxide separation behavior.
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