Localized High Concentration Electrolyte and Its Effects on Polysulfide Structure in Solution

EP Kamphaus and PB Balbuena, JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY C, 125, 20157-20170 (2021).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcc.1c04559

Lithium-sulfur batteries (LiSB) are a promising next-generation lithium energy storage technology that offers a multifold improvement over the traditional lithium-ion battery. However, the LiSB still faces the unresolved issue of the polysulfide shuttle effect. This phenomenon arises from the dissolution of sulfur intermediate reduction products into the electrolyte, which then causes a cascade of issues throughout the battery. Many mitigation strategies have been proposed to counteract this effect including the use of novel electrolyte compositions. Recently, there has been increased focus on the use of hydrofluorinated ethers as a major constituent of an electrolyte for lithium batteries. Previous studies have reported that the presence of these species create localized high concentration electrolytes (LHCE) which can have many advantages resulting in improved battery performance. Here, we report on how the inclusion of a hydrofluorinated ether BTFE (bis(2,2,2-trifluoroethyl) ether) modifies the general properties of a LiSB electrolyte and the structure of dissolved polysulfide species in the electrolyte. We found that the inclusion of BTFE does not modify the primary solvation structure of Li+ directly but actively participates in secondary solvation shells. With a high concentration of BTFE, the LHCE formation is observed by the presence of clusters of non-BTFE molecules. The structure of polysulfide species in solution was modified by the BTFE in the same way. Much of the primary solvation structure was kept, but the presence of BTFE increased polysulfide-polysulfide clustering. These results indicate that the polysulfide solubility will be limited due to the promotion of clustering.

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