The Materials Centre forms the nucleus of materials and physical chemistry research at the University of Leicester. Current academic projects and research activities focus on a range of materials focused themes, such as finishing processes, sustainability, recovery, mineralogy, engineering applications, forensics and the development and chemical analysis of novel ionic liquids and their applications within these fields.

Ionic Liquids

Among their properties, Ionic Liquids are electrically conductive, have thermal stability, low combustibility and can act as solvents for many diverse compounds. Ionic liquids are known to have substantial applications in the fields of catalysis, metal deposition, extraction and in batteries. However, for a long time the cost of ionic liquids and their sensitivity to oxygen and moisture have limited their use.

In response to this, the Materials group at the University of Leicester has developed a series of ionic liquids that have shown to be inert to air and water, while being of comparable cost to common organic solvents. The basis of the group’s exploration into novel ionic liquids is formed by the eutectic mixtures of quarternary ammonium salts and either metal salts or hydrogen bond donors to create what are known as Deep Eutectic Solvents.

As these fluids are environmentally benign, they have facilitated the research into the replacement of traditional inorganic and toxic acids in materials finishing processes.

Examples of processes in which these novel ionic liquids are being utilised include metal plating, electrochemical dissolution and electropolishing. These Deep Eutectic Solvents have subsequently been used in thousands of worldwide scientific studies.