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NMMO is not an ionic liquid

Dear Reader,

What is an ionic liquid ? I would say that an ionic liquid is a substance at room temperature which contains ions which are able to move independently of each other. The ionic liquid must be a conductor of electricity, a conductor which conducts through the movement of ions.

Recently it has come to my attention that some people are claiming that the amine oxide (N-methyl morpholine-N-oxide, NMMO) is an ionic liquid because it is an organic liquid which has a + charge and a – charge. Here is NMMO in all its glory.

N-methyl morpholine oxide

N-methyl morpholine oxide

I hate to have to do this but I have to say that this idea is wrong, N-methyl morpholine-N-oxide is commonly drawn as a zwitterion but it does not form the ions required to make it an ionic liquid. While the liquid is likely to have a large dielectric loss when subject to an AC electric field it is not a conductor of DC current.

In some parts of the chemical literature (processing of cellulose) NMMO has been compared with ionic liquids, but it is not an ionic liquid.


One Response

  1. Thank you very much for this clarification. I am a microbiologist but I’m also working on pretreatment of lignocellulose. I have been searching literature to know the specific effects of NMMO on lignocellulose. I was confused as many authors classify it as an ionic liquid. This has cleared my confusion.

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