Research ArticleAPPLIED SCIENCES AND ENGINEERING

Designer interphases for the lithium-oxygen electrochemical cell

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Science Advances  19 Apr 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 4, e1602809
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1602809

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Abstract

An electrochemical cell based on the reversible oxygen reduction reaction: 2Li+ + 2e + O2 Li2O2, provides among the most energy dense platforms for portable electrical energy storage. Such Lithium-Oxygen (Li-O2) cells offer specific energies competitive with fossil fuels and are considered promising for electrified transportation. Multiple, fundamental challenges with the cathode, anode, and electrolyte have limited practical interest in Li-O2 cells because these problems lead to as many practical shortcomings, including poor rechargeability, high overpotentials, and specific energies well below theoretical expectations. We create and study in-situ formation of solid-electrolyte interphases (SEIs) based on bromide ionomers tethered to a Li anode that take advantage of three powerful processes for overcoming the most stubborn of these challenges. The ionomer SEIs are shown to protect the Li anode against parasitic reactions and also stabilize Li electrodeposition during cell recharge. Bromine species liberated during the anchoring reaction also function as redox mediators at the cathode, reducing the charge overpotential. Finally, the ionomer SEI forms a stable interphase with Li, which protects the metal in high Gutmann donor number liquid electrolytes. Such electrolytes have been reported to exhibit rare stability against nucleophilic attack by Li2O2 and other cathode reaction intermediates, but also react spontaneously with Li metal anodes. We conclude that rationally designed SEIs able to regulate transport of matter and ions at the electrolyte/anode interface provide a promising platform for addressing three major technical barriers to practical Li-O2 cells.

Keywords
  • lithium-oxygen cells
  • solid-electrolyte interphases
  • Energy storage
  • redox mediators
  • high donor number electrolytes
  • lithium dendrites

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