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Advantages and Limitations of Reference Electrodes with an Ionic Liquid Junction and Three-Dimensionally Ordered Macroporous Carbon as Solid Contact

Zhang, Tiantian, Lai, Chun-Ze, Fierke, Melissa A., Stein, Andreas, Bühlmann, Philippe
Analytical chemistry 2012 v.84 no.18 pp. 7771-7778
carbon, hydrophobicity, ionic liquids, ions, milk, pH, poly(vinyl chloride), porous media, specific ion electrodes, vinyl chloride
Liquid-junction-free reference electrodes that contact the sample through an ionic-liquid-doped, hydrophobic polymer membrane have attracted attention because they offer an alternative to reference electrodes with conventional salt bridges. In this work, liquid-junction-free reference electrodes were developed using plasticized poly(vinyl chloride) membranes doped with the ionic liquid (IL) 1-methyl-3-octylimidazolium bis(trifluoromethylsulfonyl)imide. Three-dimensionally ordered macroporous (3DOM) carbon substrates infused with this ionic liquid phase were used as solid contacts for these reference membranes. As in prior work with ionophore-based 3DOM carbon-contact ion-selective electrodes, the long-term stability of the liquid-junction-free reference electrodes was excellent, with potential drifts as low as 42 μV/h over 26 days. Successful measurements of pH in milk were performed and, to the best of our knowledge, are the first example of the use of liquid-junction-free reference electrodes in complex real-life samples. A thorough analysis of their performance at low pH revealed protonation of the ionic liquid anion (L–) and formation of LHL– type of associates in the reference electrode membrane, effects not observed in prior work. Also, when reference membranes were mounted into conventional electrode bodies with inner filling solutions that contained no ionic liquid ions, zero-current ion fluxes across the sample/membrane interface occurred, as previously only seen for ionophore-doped ion-selective membranes. Understanding these effects will be crucial to the design of liquid-junction-free reference electrodes suitable for other applications.