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Interface Engineering of Garnet Solid Electrolytes


Solid lithium ion conductors represent a promising class of materials for next generation high energy density batteries, with the potential for enabling use of high capacity Li metal anodes and providing opportunities for novel lithium-free cathode materials. However, highly resistive interfaces stymie their practical use. This urgent scientific challenge requires mechanistic understanding of ion transport at interfaces, as well as development of novel processes to achieve low interfacial resistances.

The goal of this PhD dissertation was to generate fundamental understandings of garnet-structured Al substituted Li7La3Zr2O12 (LLZO) electrolyte surfaces and interfaces with lithium metal electrodes. Specifically in this research, the topmost surface microstructure, local chemical environment, and surface chemistry were carefully studied. The ceramic processing of garnet is discussed and ways to control the sintering behavior and microstructures were explored and successfully demonstrated. Factors contributing to high interfacial resistance were systematically studied. The source of the high interfacial impedance has been traced to the presence of Li2CO3 on pellet surfaces resulting from air exposure after processing. In addition, it was discovered that surface grain boundaries are surprisingly fast ion transport pathways and surface microstructure is critically important to lithium ion transport at interfaces. Complex homo- and heterostructured LLZO solid electrolytes with controllable surface and bulk microstructures were successfully fabricated, which allowed the comparison and separation of the contribution from the surface and the bulk. Engineered pellet surfaces allowed us to achieve the lowest interfacial resistance ever reported for this composition, resulting in significantly improved cycling behavior. Lastly, it was found that LLZO surfaces can be effectively stabilized under air exposure conditions, preventing Li2CO3 formation and maintaining low interfacial resistances. This opens new opportunities for garnet solid electrolyte in practical applications.

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