Solid state batteries line up for better performance

Date

05/21/21
Materials science and engineering researchers Beniamin Zahiri, left, and Paul Braun led a team that developed new battery electrodes made of strategically arranged materials in an effort to drive better solid-state battery technologies. Photo by Fred Zwi

Solid-state batteries pack a lot of energy into a small space, but their electrodes are not good at keeping in touch with their electrolytes. Liquid electrolytes reach every nook and cranny of an electrode to spark energy, but liquids take up space without storing energy and fail over time. Researchers are now putting solid electrolytes in touch with electrodes made of strategically arranged materials – at the atomic level – and the results are helping drive better solid-state battery technologies.

A new study, led by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign materials science and engineering professor Paul Braun, postdoctoral research associate Beniamin Zahiri, and Xerion Advanced Battery Corp. director of research and development John Cook, demonstrates how control over the atomic alignment of solid materials can improve the cathode-solid electrolyte interface and stability in solid-state batteries. The results are published in the journal Nature Materials. 

Illustration of a conventional solid-state battery and the team’s new high-performance design that contains tailored electrode-electrolyte interfaces.
Illustration of a conventional solid-state battery and the team’s new high-performance design that contains tailored electrode-electrolyte interfaces. Graphic courtesy Beniamin Zahiri and Paul Braun.

“With batteries, it’s not just materials that are important, but also how the atoms on the surfaces of those materials are arranged,” Zahiri said. “Currently, solid-state battery electrodes contain materials with a large diversity of surface atom arrangements. This leads to a seemingly infinite number of electrode-solid electrolyte contact interface possibilities, all with different levels of chemical reactivity. We are interested in finding which arrangements lead to practical improvements in battery cycle life, energy density and power.”

The researchers said an electrolyte’s stability controls how many charging and discharging cycles a battery can handle before it starts to lose power. Because of this, scientists are in a race to find the most stable electrolyte materials.

“In the rush to find stable solid electrolyte materials, developers have sort of lost sight of the importance of what is happening in that very thin interface between electrolyte and electrode,” Zahiri said. “But the stability of the electrolyte will not matter if the connection between it and the electrodes cannot be evaluated in an efficient way.”

In the lab, the team built electrodes containing sodium and lithium ions with specific atomic arrangements. They found correlations between battery performance and interface atomic arrangement in both the lithium- and sodium-based solid-state batteries. They also discovered that minimizing the interface surface area and controlling the electrodes’ atomic alignment is key to both understanding the nature of interface instabilities and improving cell performance.

“This is a new paradigm for how to evaluate all the important solid electrolytes available today,” Cook said. “Before this, we were largely just guessing what electrode-solid electrolyte interface structures gave the best performance, but now we can test this and find the best combination of materials and atomic orientations.”

As demonstrated by co-author mechanical science and engineering professor Elif Ertekin and her group, having this level of control gave the researchers the information needed to run atomic simulations that they hypothesize will lead to even better electrolyte materials in the future, the researchers said.

“We think this will teach us a lot about how to investigate emerging solid electronics,” Braun said. “We are not trying to invent new solid electrolytes; the materials world is doing a great job with that already. Our methodology will allow others to precisely measure the interfacial properties of their new materials, something that has otherwise been very difficult to determine.”

Braun is the Materials Research Laboratory director and an affiliate of mechanical science and engineering, chemistry, the Beckman Institute of Advanced Science and Technology and the Holonyak Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory at Illinois. Ertekin is the director of mechanics programs in mechanical sciences and engineering and also is affiliated with the Materials Research Laboratory and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

The Department of Defense, the United States Army and the Army Corps of Engineers supported this study.

Editor’s notes:

The paper “Revealing the role of the cathode-electrolyte interface on solid-state batteries’” is available online and from the U. of I. News Bureau. DOI: 10.1038/s41563-021-01016-0.

Related People

pbraun

Directory

scheelinAlexander
Scheeline
bjmccallBenjamin
McCall
r-gennisRobert
Gennis
j-gerltJohn
Gerlt
sgranickSteve
Granick
mgruebelMartin
Gruebele
hergenroPaul
Hergenrother
huangRaven
Huang
mlkraftMary
Kraft
leckbandDeborah
Leckband
yi-luYi
Lu
martinisSusan
Martinis
snairSatish
Nair
eoldfielEric
Oldfield
cmsCharles
Schroeder
zanZaida
Luthey-Schulten
selvinPaul
Selvin
sksScott
Silverman
s-sligarStephen
Sligar
tajkhorsEmad
Tajkhorshid
zhao5Huimin
Zhao
pbraunPaul
Braun
mdburkeMartin
Burke
jeffchanJefferson
Chan
sdenmarkScott
Denmark
dlottDana
Dlott
foutAlison
Fout
agewirthAndrew
Gewirth
ggirolamGregory
Girolami
sohirataSo
Hirata
jainPrashant
Jain
jkatzeneJohn
Katzenellenbogen
nmakriNancy
Makri
douglasmDouglas
Mitchell
jsmooreJeffrey
Moore
murphycjCatherine
Murphy
r-nuzzoRalph
Nuzzo
dimerPhilip
Phillips
rauchfuzThomas
Rauchfuss
joaquinrJoaquín
Rodríguez-López
sarlahDavid
Sarlah
kschweizKenneth
Schweizer
jsweedleJonathan
Sweedler
vddonkWilfred
van der Donk
renskeRenske
van der Veen
vuraweisJosh
Vura-Weis
mcwhite7M.
White
sczimmerSteven
Zimmerman
beakPeter
Beak
wklemperWalter
Klemperer
jdmcdonaJ.
McDonald
pogoreloTaras
Pogorelov
mshen233Mei
Shen
dewoonDavid
Woon
wboulangWilliam
Boulanger
rxbRohit
Bhargava
qchen20Qian
Chen
jianjuncJianjun
Cheng
hy66Hong
Yang
andinomaJosé
Andino Martinez
decosteDonald
DeCoste
thhuangTina
Huang
tjhummelThomas
Hummel
dkellDavid
Kell
doctorkMichael
Koerner
marvilleKelly
Marville
crrayChristian
Ray
tlbrownTheodore
Brown
rmcoatesRobert
Coates
thdjrThom
Dunning
dykstraClifford
Dykstra
j-jonasJiri
Jonas
j-lisyJames
Lisy
shapleyJohn
Shapley
pshapleyPatricia
Shapley
zumdahl2Steven
Zumdahl
ksuslickKenneth
Suslick
jcoxJenny
Cox
sqdSean
Drummond
sheeleySarah
Sheeley
jsmaddenJoseph
Madden
cknight4Connie
Knight
schulzeHeather
Schulze
kbaumgarKeena
Finney
adkssnBeatrice
Adkisson
trabari1Katie
Trabaris
metclfKara
Metcalf
ljohnso2Lori
Johnson
lchenoweLeslie
Chenoweth
wdedoWolali
Dedo
spinnerDavid
Spinner
plblumPatricia
Simpson
stevens2Chad
Stevens
lsagekarLori
Sage-Karlson
bertholdDeborah
Berthold
kecarlsoKathryn
Carlson
sdesmondSerenity
Desmond
axelson2Jordan
Axelson
scbakerStephanie
Baker
pflotschPriscila
Falagan Lotsch
dgrayDanielle
Gray
thennes2Tom
Hennessey
holdaNancy
Holda
aibarrAlejandro
Ibarra
kimshSung Hoon
Kim
kocherg2Nikolai
Kocherginsky
philipk2Philip
Kocheril
legare2Stephanie
Legare
alewandoAgnieszka
Lewandowska
smccombiStuart
McCombie
jdm5Justin
McGlauchlen
egmooreEdwin
Moore
myerscouKathleen
Myerscough
snalla2Siva
Nalla
romanovaElena
Romanova
roubakhiStanislav
Rubakhin
shvedalxAlexander
Shved
asoudaAlexander
Soudakov
xywangXiying
Wang
kwilhelKaren
Wilhelmsen
wilkeyRandy
Wilkey
silongSilong
Zhang
schlembaMary
Schlembach
trimmellAshley
Trimmell
emccarr2Elise
McCarren
cmercierChristen
Mercier
atimpermAaron
Timperman
niesShuming
Nie
hshanHee-Sun
Han
mmgMutha
Gunasekera
kknightsKatriena
Knights
lisawLisa
Williamson
keinckKatie
Einck
kneef1Kate
Neef
txiang4Tiange
Xiang
j-hummelJohn
Hummel
i-paulIain
Paul
munjanjaLloyd
Munjanja
glnGayle
Nelsen
agerardAnna
Gerard
powerskaKimberly
Powers
lolshansLisa
Olshansky
miricaLiviu
Mirica
qingcao2Qing
Cao
lisa3Lisa
Johnson
tinalambTina
Lamb
baronpBaron
Peters
bransle2Sarah
Bransley
dylanmh2Dylan
Hamilton
raegansRaegan
Smith
apm8Angad
Mehta
leverittJohn
Leveritt
xingwXing
Wang
emillrEva
Miller
jmill24Jacqueline
Miller
jlbass2Julia
Bass
ramonarRamona
Rudzinski
tlcraneTracy
Crane
cejohnstCelia
Johnston
adlAmber
LaBau
cnsolomoCandice
Solomon-Strutz
mikaelbMikael
Backlund
jacksonnNick
Jackson