In liquids, the atoms or molecules are not as tightly bound as in solids, and due to that, they have some freedom to move around. The liquid state is a condensed state of matter, because even in it, as in solids, the particles are linked (weakly) to each other. On the other hand, as liquids and gases share the ability to flow, they are both called fluids.

They still experience attractive forces but not as strong as solids. Besides, they also begin to experience some repulsive forces. Among the molecules of a fluid act attractive forces of an entity sufficient to prevent their separation, but insufficient to immobilize the molecules in fixed and defined positions (such as those of a crystal lattice typical of a solid).

In a liquid at rest the motion of the molecules slide over each other is continuous and is identified with the motion of thermal agitation. In such motion cavities with diameters of the order of the molecular dimensions are formed between the molecules for very short times, which immediately close again by reforming themselves elsewhere; consequently, the liquids generally have a density slightly lower than that of the solid and are not very compressible.

The cohesion forces acting between the molecules of the liquids are of different intensity and vary with temperature, giving correspondingly different viscosity values according to the liquid considered and according to the temperature. So, depending on the type of liquid, the molecules may encounter greater or lesser resistance to moving within the liquid; the higher the resistance they encounter, the higher the viscosity of the liquid.

Such forces can also be of a different nature: predominantly electrostatic nature as in molten salts, in practice constituted by ions of opposite charge, or of the type of so-called van der Waals forces that act among molecules electrically neutral or even (for example, in the case of water) due to the polar structure of the molecules of the liquid which entails the existence, within each molecule, of predominantly positive charge zones alongside other predominantly negative charges.

Properties of liquids

Thus, liquids have a definite volume (almost invariably for any value of pressure) but not a definite shape; they assume the shape of the container. Due to their flexibility, the liquids can be poured from one container to another. They do not occupy the entire volume of the respective container, whatever its shape may be, deforming and depositing itself in the lower part of the container itself, they always present a “free surface” of contact (or border) with the overlying atmosphere.

A liquid is a nearly incompressible fluid that conforms to the shape of its container but retains a (nearly) constant volume independent of pressure. As such, it is one of the four fundamental states of matter (the others being solid, gas, and plasma), and is the only state with a definite volume but no fixed shape.

Most liquids resist compression, although others can be compressed. Unlike a gas, a liquid does not disperse to fill every space of a container and maintains a fairly constant density. A distinctive property of the liquid state is surface tension, leading to wetting phenomena.

A molecule of a liquid that at a given instant is not immediately adjacent to the surface that separates it from the overlying atmosphere is subject to the attractive forces exerted by the other molecules that surround it in all directions. The molecules that at a given instant constitute the surface of the liquid are instead adjacent to a smaller number of molecules and those of them that at that moment have higher kinetic energy can pass from the liquid mass to the atmosphere above, transforming itself into vapor.

It follows that all liquids, even at temperatures well below their boiling point, have a more or less marked tendency to evaporate: this tendency increases with temperature because with this increases the kinetic energy of the molecules. From the steam which is thus formed above the liquid surface, if this is not continuously removed (for example by ventilating the surface itself), the molecules show a certain tendency to return to the liquid mass, to which the attractive forces recall it before described.

At each temperature, exist a balance in which it is matching the number of molecules of a liquid that, in a specific instant, evaporate and the number of molecules that simultaneously condense, i.e., returning from the gaseous to the liquid state. In these conditions, the vapor pressure of the liquid increases with the temperature in a logarithmic way (for what concerns the static and the dynamics of the liquids). Static liquids in uniform gravitational fields also exhibit the phenomenon of buoyancy.

Ionic liquid

Ionic liquids (IL) are compounds made up exclusively of ions and their combinations, but unlike the salts, they appear in liquid form at room temperature (or at temperatures close to the latter) even without the presence of a molecular solvent.

A generic definition of ionic liquids is that which describes them as salts that have melting points lower than the boiling point of water. This is a definition based solely on temperature, which does not provide information on the composition of the material except for the fact that it is made up of only ions.

Among the chemical-physical properties that most characterize ionic liquids, differentiating them from common organic solvents, the main ones are low volatility, low electrical conductivity, low flammability, relatively high thermal and chemical stability, the amplitude of the temperature range in which they occur in the liquid state, and favorable solvating properties for a range of polar and non-polar compounds.

The first room-temperature ionic liquid discovered appears to have been ethylammonium nitrate EtNH3NO3, first described in 1914. The first patent for a room temperature ionic liquid based on chloroaluminate anions dates back to 1948. In 1963 a system based on chlorocuprate anions and tetraalkylammonium cations was described, while in 1967 the first application of a room temperature ionic liquid based on tetra-n-hexylammonium as solvent was published.

In the 1970s, based on Osteryoung’s work, an important series of studies were conducted on ionic liquids based on tetraalkylammonium cations and chloroaluminate anions.

In the 1980s, systematic studies of ionic liquids of chloroaluminates were conducted. Early applications as electrolytes in solvent batteries and catalysts in organic chemistry are studied.

In the 1990s a new series of ionic liquids based on the 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazole cation and the tetrafluroborate anion were studied and described, which showed for the first time the possibility of creating ionic liquids based not exclusively on chloroaluminate salts.

Since then a large number of new ionic liquids have been described, studied and characterized and an increasing number of publications have been devoted to this category of compounds, including several reviews and books. This growing interest has also led to the commercialization of a large number of ionic liquids.

Properties of ionic liquids

Ionic liquids identify a very large class of compounds, estimated in the order of 1018 units, but in which some specific properties can be identified.

The values of the melting points of ionic liquids can vary greatly and those that have a low melting point resulting liquid at room temperature, are distinguished and defined as room temperature ionic liquids (or RTIL, acronym of room temperature ionic liquids). The chemical and physical properties of these compounds are the same as those of high-temperature ionic liquids, but the practical aspects of their maintenance and treatment are different enough to warrant a distinction.

Ionic liquids have almost zero vapor pressure (with a few exceptions), high electrical conductivity, and a large electrochemical window that allows for anions and cations that resist oxidation-reduction processes. In particular, the electrochemical properties can be modulated by modifying the anion and cation in various ways. These specificities favor their use in the electrochemical field (batteries, accumulators, sensors, photovoltaic panels).

Magnetic liquid

magnetic liquid is a substance containing in suspension particles of magnetic material with dimensions in the order of one-thousandth of a millimeter; sometimes it is also called ferrofluid. Characteristic of these liquids is the very high sensitivity to magnetic fields, this because each particle in suspension in the liquid has its magnetic moment, i.e., it behaves like a sort of micromagnet.

The main interests on magnetic liquids reside in their optical properties: for example, since the particles of magnetic liquid orient themselves in the presence of a magnetic field, it is possible to use magnetic fields to polarize these liquids properly and to ensure, from time to time, that they are transparent or opaque in light. This allows measuring the viscosity of the liquid and the presence of weak magnetic fields. In medicine, they are used in the localization of cancer cells and in the electronics industry where they are used for the realization of high-speed printers.