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Extended Cycling through Rigid Block Copolymer Electrolytes Enabled by Reducing Impurities in Lithium Metal Electrodes


Successful prevention of lithium dendrite growth would enable the use of lithium metal as an anode material in next-generation rechargeable batteries. Mechanically stiff block copolymer electrolytes have been shown to prolong the life of lithium metal cells by partially suppressing lithium dendrite growth. However, impurity particles that are invariably present in the lithium metal nucleate electrodeposition defects that eventually lead to short circuits. In this study, we use X-ray tomography to study the morphology of electrodeposited lithium in symmetric cells containing a block copolymer electrolyte. An "electrochemical filtering" treatment was performed on these cells to reduce the concentration of impurity particles near the electrode-electrolyte interface, and cells were cycled to determine the effects of the treatment on lifetime. Depending on the treatment details, the average charge passed before failure was improved by 30-400%. For a cell in which the treatment was most effective, the cycle life was increased by more than an order of magnitude, and the measured number of deposition defects per area was negligible. Other treated cells, however, in which the treated lithium was imperfect, had a higher number of deposition defects per area compared to control cells. A majority of the deposition defects in treated cells were confined within the electrodes. In contrast, most of the deposition defects seen in the control cells were protrusions that invaded the electrolyte phase. The increased lifetime in these imperfectly treated cells was not due to a reduction in the number of deposition defects per area, but rather due to the differences in defect morphology. These results motivate the development of deposition defect- and impurity-free lithium metal electrodes.

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