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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.

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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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