Combining ReaxFF Simulations and Experiments to Evaluate the Structure- Property Characteristics of Polymeric Binders in Si-Based Li-Ion Batteries

M Bhati and QA Nguyen and SL Biswal and TP Senftle, ACS APPLIED MATERIALS & INTERFACES, 13, 41956-41967 (2021).

DOI: 10.1021/acsami.1c08484

High energy capacity silicon (Si) anodes in Li-ion batteries incorporate polymeric binders to improve cycle life, which is otherwise limited by large volume and stress fluctuations during charging/discharging cycles. Several properties of the polymeric binder play a role in achieving optimal battery performance, including interfacial adhesion strength, mechanical elasticity, and lithium-ion conduction rate. In this work, we utilize atomistic simulations with the ReaxFF force field and complementary experiments to investigate how these properties dictate the performance of Si/binder anodes. We study three C/N/H-based polymer binders with varying structures (pyrolyzed polyacrylonitrile (PPAN), polyacrylonitrile (PAN), and polyaniline (PANI)) to determine how the structure-property characteristics of the binder affect performance. The Si/binder adhesion analysis reveals some counter-intuitive results: although an individual PANI chain has a stronger affinity to Si compared to PPAN, the PANI bulk binds weaker to the Si surface. Interfacial structural analyses from simulations of the bulk phase show that PANI chains have poor stacking at the interface, while PPAN chains exhibit dense and highly ordered stacking behavior, leading to stronger adhesion. PPAN also has a lower Young's modulus compared to PANI and PAN owing to its ordered and less entangled bulk structure. This added elasticity better accommodates volume changes associated with cycling, making it a more suitable candidate for Si anodes. Finally, both simulations and experimental measurements of Li-ion diffusion rates show higher Li mobility through PPAN than PAN and PANI because the ordered stacking of PPAN chains creates channels that are favorable for Li diffusion to the Si surface. Galvanostatic charge-discharge cycling experiments show that PPAN is indeed a highly promising binder for Si anodes in Li-ion batteries, retaining a capacity of similar to 1400 mAh g(-1) for 150 cycles. This work demonstrates that the orientation and structure of the polymer at and near the interface are essential for optimizing binder performance as well as showcases the initial steps for binder evaluation, selection, and application for electrodes in Li-ion batteries.

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