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Electrochemical Oxidation of Lithium Carbonate Generates Singlet Oxygen


Solid alkali metal carbonates are universal passivation layer components of intercalation battery materials and common side products in metal-O2 batteries, and are believed to form and decompose reversibly in metal-O2 /CO2 cells. In these cathodes, Li2 CO3 decomposes to CO2 when exposed to potentials above 3.8 V vs. Li/Li+ . However, O2 evolution, as would be expected according to the decomposition reaction 2 Li2 CO3 →4 Li+ +4 e- +2 CO2 +O2 , is not detected. O atoms are thus unaccounted for, which was previously ascribed to unidentified parasitic reactions. Here, we show that highly reactive singlet oxygen (1 O2 ) forms upon oxidizing Li2 CO3 in an aprotic electrolyte and therefore does not evolve as O2 . These results have substantial implications for the long-term cyclability of batteries: they underpin the importance of avoiding 1 O2 in metal-O2 batteries, question the possibility of a reversible metal-O2 /CO2 battery based on a carbonate discharge product, and help explain the interfacial reactivity of transition-metal cathodes with residual Li2 CO3 .

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