Transport Phenomena in Low Temperature Lithium-Ion Battery Electrolytes
Lithium-ion batteries face low temperature performance issues, limiting the adoption of technologies ranging from electric vehicles to stationary grid storage. This problem is thought to be exacerbated by slow transport within the electrolyte, which in turn may be influenced by ion association, solvent viscosity, and cation transference number. How these factors collectively impact low temperature transport phenomena, however, remains poorly understood. Here we show using all-atom classical molecular dynamics (MD) simulations that the dominant factor influencing low temperature transport in LP57 (1 M LiPF6 in 3:7 ethylene carbonate (EC)/ethyl methyl carbonate (EMC)) is solvent viscosity, rather than ion aggregation or cation transference number. We find that ion association decreases with decreasing temperature, while the cation transference number is positive and roughly independent of temperature. In an effort to improve low temperature performance, we introduce γ-butyrolactone (GBL) as a low viscosity co-solvent to explore two alternative formulations: 1 M LiPF6 in 15:15:70 EC/GBL/EMC and 3:7 GBL/EMC. While GBL reduces solution viscosity, its low dielectric constant results in increased ion pairing, yielding neither improved bulk ionic conductivity nor appreciably altered ion transport mechanisms. We expect that these results will enhance understanding of low temperature transport and inform the development of superior electrolytes.