Ionic liquids (ILs) have attracted significant interest as replacement solvents in electrochemical experiments over the last two decades. They possess several properties make them attractive compared to traditional solvent/electrolyte combinations, including high chemical and thermal stability, wide electrochemical windows, low volatility, high polarity, high viscosity and the ability to dissolve a wide range of compounds. My group and I are interested in employing ionic liquids with low-cost planar electrode devices for the detection of target analytes including gases (e.g. oxygen, hydrogen, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, chlorine, methylamine) and explosive compounds (e.g. 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT), hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX), and octahydro-1,3,5,7-tetranitro- 1,3,5,7-tetrazocine (HMX)).
In this presentation, Dr Silvester-Dean will discuss some of her recent developments in this area, focussing on: (1) the sensing of gases in ILs with different humidity environments, revealing that ion structuring at the electrode is disrupted in the presence of moisture, (2) mixing with polymers to physically stabilise the IL on the electrode, a move towards robust wearable sensors, and (3) the preconcentration ability of ionic liquids that allows the detection of explosive compounds such as TNT using liquid/liquid partitioning. Our long-term goal is to develop a new generation of low-cost commercially available sensors comprising of ionic liquids or gelled electrolytes, for the fast and reliable detection of analytes.
Assoc. Prof. Debbie Silvester is an electrochemist and ARC Future Fellow in the School of Molecular and Life Sciences at Curtin University, Perth. She completed her DPhil (PhD) at the University of Oxford, UK, then spent a short time as an intern for Schumberger Cambridge Research, before arriving at Curtin University as a Curtin Research Fellow. In 2012, she was awarded an ARC Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA) and in 2017, an ARC Future Fellowship.
Her research focusses on the application of ionic liquids as electrolytes in electrochemical reactions, with an emphasis on understanding fundamental behaviour to develop new electrochemical sensors. She has won various awards for her research, including a Young Tall Poppy award, the Rennie Memorial medal from the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, the Peter W. Alexander Medal from the Analytical & Environmental Division of the RACI, and the Alan M Bond medal from the Electrochemistry Division of the RACI. She is currently the secretary for the Electrochemistry Division of the RACI, and the Australia/New Zealand representative for the International Society of Electrochemistry.