The broader impact/commercial potential of this Partnerships for Innovation - Technology Translation (PFI-TT) project is the development of rechargeable lithium metal batteries (LMBs) able to meet the cost, safety, and performance criteria required for large-scale use. Rechargeable batteries that use lithium metal foil as the electrical energy storage method are of longstanding interest because they provide lightweight platforms for energy-dense storage of electricity to meet consumer demands for portable devices that are lighter, smaller, and more powerful. Commercial availability of LMBs would also represent an improvement for the electrified transportation and grid storage sectors because for a given size, these batteries offer 2 - 5 times more storage capacity than current state-of-the art lithium-ion technology. As a step towards driving commercial interest, this project will develop, evaluate, and demonstrate rechargeable lithium batteries in various sizes, and will explore their manufacturability and market entry requirements.
The proposed project will develop cross-linked, ion-conducting polymer membranes that can be applied as interfacial coatings (interphases) on the metallic lithium anodes. It is known that the propensity of Li metal to form rough/dendritic deposits during battery recharge is a key barrier to commercialization of LMBs. During multiple charge-discharge cycles, the dendrites grow and proliferate throughout the inter-electrode space, ultimately causing catastrophic battery failure when they bridge the electrodes to short-circuit the battery. Research in the project will create cross-linked polymer coatings on Li electrodes, which preliminary studies by the Principal Investigator show provide multiple powerful strategies for arresting dendritic electrodeposition at both low and high ionic currents. At low currents, such interphases prevent dendrite formation by protecting Li metal against parasitic reactions with electrolyte components, which facilitates fast and uniform interfacial ion transport, enabling more uniform deposition. At high currents, cross-linked polymer interphases impart viscoelasticity to a liquid electrolyte, which prevent dendrite growth by arresting the hydrodynamic instability known as electroconvection. With the specific aim of creating scalable processes for fabricating dendrite-resistant, polymer-coated Li electrodes, the research proposed will investigate how changes in structure, mechanics, and transport properties induced by coating chemistry influence the reversibility of Li electrodeposition processes.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.