Interfacial behavior of polymer electrolytes
Evidence is presented concerning the effect of surfaces on the segmental motion of PEO-based polymer electrolytes in lithium batteries. For dry systems with no moisture the effect of surfaces of nanoparticle fillers is to inhibit the segmental motion and to reduce the lithium ion transport. These effects also occur at the surfaces in composite electrodes that contain considerable quantities of carbon black nanoparticles for electronic connection. The problem of reduced polymer mobility is compounded by the generation of salt concentration gradients within the composite electrode. Highly concentrated polymer electrolytes have reduced transport properties due to the increased ionic cross-linking. Combined with the interfacial interactions this leads to the generation of low mobility electrolyte layers within the electrode and to loss of capacity and power capability. It is shown that even with planar lithium metal electrodes the concentration gradients can significantly impact the interfacial impedance. The interfacial impedance of lithium/PEO-LiTFSI cells varies depending upon the time elapsed since current was turned off after polarization. The behavior is consistent with relaxation of the salt concentration gradients and indicates that a portion of the interfacial impedance usually attributed to the SEI layer is due to concentrated salt solutions next to the electrode surfaces that are very resistive. These resistive layers may undergo actual phase changes in a non-uniform manner and the possible role of the reduced mobility polymer layers in dendrite initiation and growth is also explored. It is concluded that PEO and ethylene oxide-based polymers are less than ideal with respect to this interfacial behavior.