Electrochemical Interphases for High-Energy Storage Using Reactive Metal Anodes

Shuya Wei, Snehashis Choudhury, Zhengyuan Tu, Kaihang Zhang, Lynden A. Archer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


Conspectus Stable electrochemical interphases play a critical role in regulating transport of mass and charge in all electrochemical energy storage (EES) systems. In state-of-the-art rechargeable lithium ion batteries, they are rarely formed by design but instead spontaneously emerge from electrochemical degradation of electrolyte and electrode components. High-energy secondary batteries that utilize reactive metal anodes (e.g., Li, Na, Si, Sn, Al) to store large amounts of charge by alloying and/or electrodeposition reactions introduce fundamental challenges that require rational design in order to stabilize the interphases. Chemical instability of the electrodes in contact with electrolytes, morphological instability of the metal–electrolyte interface upon plating and stripping, and hydrodynamic-instability-induced electroconvection of the electrolyte at high currents are all known to cause metal electrode–electrolyte interfaces to continuously evolve in morphology, uniformity, and composition. Additionally, metal anodes undergo large changes in volume during lithiation and delithiation, which means that even in the rare cases where spontaneously formed solid electrode–electrolyte interphases (SEIs) are in thermodynamic equilibrium with the electrode, the SEI is under dynamic strain, which inevitably leads to cracking and/or rupture during extended battery cycling. There is an urgent need for interphases that are able to overcome each of these sources of instability with minimal losses of electrolyte and electrode components. Complementary chemical synthesis strategies are likewise urgently needed to create self-limited and mechanically durable SEIs that are able to flex and shrink to accommodate volume change. These needs are acute for practically relevant cells that cannot utilize large excesses of anode and electrolyte as employed in proof-of-concept-type experiments reported in the scientific literature. This disconnect between practical needs and research practices makes it difficult to translate promising literature results, underscoring the importance of research designed to reveal principles for good interphase design. This Account considers the fundamental processes involved in interphase formation, stability, and failure and on that basis identifies design principles, synthesis procedures, and characterization methods for enabling stable metal anode–electrolyte interfaces for EES. We first review results from experimental, continuum theoretical, and computational analyses of interfacial transport to identify fundamental connections between the composition of the SEI at metal–electrolyte interfaces and stability. Design principles and tools for creating stable artificial solid–electrolyte interphases (ASEIs) based on polymers, ionic liquids, ceramics, nanoparticles, salts, and their combinations are subsequently discussed. Interphases composed of a second electrochemically active material that stores charge by different processes from the underlying metal electrode emerge as particularly attractive routes toward so-called hybrid electrodes that enable facile scale-up of ASEI designs for commercially relevant EES.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-88
Number of pages9
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 11 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): KUSC1-018-02
Acknowledgements: This material is based on work supported by the Department of Energy Basic Energy Science Program through Award DE-SC0016082 and the Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy (ARPA-E) through Award DE-AR0000750. Many of the experiments highlighted in this Account made use of the electrochemical characterization facilities available through the KAUST–Cornell Center for Energy and Sustainability, which is supported by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) through Award KUSC1-018-02.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


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