Skip to main content

Hydrogen-Bond-Driven Chemical Separations: Elucidating the Interfacial Steps of Self-Assembly in Solvent Extraction

by Azhad U Chowdhury, Lu Lin, Benjamin L Doughty
Publication Type
Journal Name
ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces
Publication Date
Page Numbers
32119 to 32130

Chemical separations, particularly liquid extractions, are pervasive in academic and industrial laboratories, yet a mechanistic understanding of the events governing their function are obscured by interfacial phenomena that are notoriously difficult to measure. In this work, we investigate the fundamental steps of ligand self-assembly as driven by changes in the interfacial H-bonding network using vibrational sum frequency generation. Our results show how the bulk pH modulates the interfacial structure of extractants at the buried oil/aqueous interface via the formation of unique H-bonding networks that order and bridge ligands to produce self-assembled aggregates. These extended H-bonded structures are key to the subsequent extraction of Co2+ from the aqueous phase in promoting micelle formation and subsequent ejection of the said micelle into the oil phase. The combination of static and time-resolved measurements reveals the events underlying complexities of liquid extractions at high [Co2+]:[ligand] ratios by showing an evolution of interfacially assembled structures that are readily tuned on a chemical basis by altering the compositions of the aqueous phase. The results of this work point to new principles to design-applied separations through the manipulation of surface charge, electrostatic screening, and the associated H-bonding networks that arise at the interface to facilitate organization and subsequent extraction.