Understanding the molecular mechanism of pulse current charging for stable lithium-metal batteries

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Science Advances  21 Jul 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 7, e1701246
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1701246

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High energy and safe electrochemical storage are critical components in multiple emerging fields of technologies. Rechargeable lithium-metal batteries are considered to be promising alternatives for current lithium-ion batteries, leading to as much as a 10-fold improvement in anode storage capacity (from 372 to 3860 mAh g−1). One of the major challenges for commercializing lithium-metal batteries is the reliability and safety issue, which is often associated with uneven lithium electrodeposition (lithium dendrites) during the charging stage of the battery cycling process. We report that stable lithium-metal batteries can be achieved by simply charging cells with square-wave pulse current. We investigated the effects of charging period and frequency as well as the mechanisms that govern this process at the molecular level. Molecular simulations were performed to study the diffusion and the solvation structure of lithium cations (Li+) in bulk electrolyte. The model predicts that loose association between cations and anions can enhance the transport of Li+ and eventually stabilize the lithium electrodeposition. We also performed galvanostatic measurements to evaluate the cycling behavior and cell lifetime under pulsed electric field and found that the cell lifetime can be more than doubled using certain pulse current waveforms. Both experimental and simulation results demonstrate that the effectiveness of pulse current charging on dendrite suppression can be optimized by choosing proper time- and frequency-dependent pulses. This work provides a molecular basis for understanding the mechanisms of pulse current charging to mitigating lithium dendrites and designing pulse current waveforms for stable lithium-metal batteries.

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