Force microscopy of layering and friction in an ionic liquid

The mechanical properties of the ionic liquid 1-butyl-1-methylpyrrolidinium tris(pentafluoroethyl) trifluorophosphate ([Py1,4][FAP]) in confinement between a SiOxand a Au(1 1 1) surface are investigated by means of atomic force microscopy (AFM) under electrochemical control. Up to 12 layers of ion pairs can be detected through force measurements while approaching the tip of the AFM to the surface. The particular shape of the force versus distance curve is explained by a model for the interaction between tip, gold surface and ionic liquid, which assumes an exponentially decaying oscillatory force originating from bulk liquid density correlations. Jumps in the tip-sample distance upon approach correspond to jumps of the compliant force sensor between branches of the oscillatory force curve. Frictional force between the laterally moving tip and the surface is detected only after partial penetration of the last double layer between tip and surface.