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Title: BiFeO3 Coupled Polysulfide Trapping in C/S Composite Cathode Material for Li-S Batteries as Large Efficiency and High Rate Performance
We demonstrated the efficient coupling of BiFeO3 (BFO) ferroelectric material within the carbon–sulfur (C-S) composite cathode, where polysulfides are trapped in BFO mesh, reducing the polysulfide shuttle impact, and thus resulting in an improved cyclic performance and an increase in capacity in Li-S batteries. Here, the built-in internal field due to BFO enhances polysulfide trapping. The observation of a difference in the diffusion behavior of polysulfides in BFO-coupled composites suggests more efficient trapping in BFO-modified C-S electrodes compared to pristine C-S composite cathodes. The X-ray diffraction results of BFO–C-S composite cathodes show an orthorhombic structure, while Raman spectra substantiate efficient coupling of BFO in C-S composites, in agreement with SEM images, showing the interconnected network of submicron-size sulfur composites. Two plateaus were observed at 1.75 V and 2.1 V in the charge/discharge characteristics of BFO–C-S composite cathodes. The observed capacity of ~1600 mAh g−1 in a 1.5–2.5 V operating window for BFO30-C10-S60 composite cathodes, and the high cyclic stability substantiate the superior performance of the designed cathode materials due to the efficient reduction in the polysulfide shuttle effect in these composite cathodes.  more » « less
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  1. Abstract

    The lithium–sulfur (Li–S) battery is a promising candidate for next‐generation high‐density energy storage devices because of its ultrahigh theoretical energy density and the natural abundance of sulfur. However, the practical performance of the sulfur cathode is plagued by fast capacity decay and poor cycle life, both of which can be attributed to the intrinsic dissolution/shuttling of lithium polysulfides. Here, a new built‐in magnetic field–enhanced polysulfide trapping mechanism is discovered by introducing ferromagnetic iron/iron carbide (Fe/Fe3C) nanoparticles with a graphene shell (Fe/Fe3C/graphene) onto a flexible activated cotton textile (ACT) fiber to prepare the ACT@Fe/Fe3C/graphene sulfur host. The novel trapping mechanism is demonstrated by significant differences in the diffusion behavior of polysulfides in a custom‐designed liquid cell compared to a pure ACT/S cathode. Furthermore, a cell assembled using the ACT@Fe/Fe3C/S cathode exhibits a high initial discharge capacity of ≈764 mAh g−1, excellent rate performance, and a remarkably long lifespan of 600 cycles using ACT@Fe/Fe3C/S (whereas only 100 cycles can be achieved using pure ACT/S). The new magnetic field–enhanced trapping mechanism provides not only novel insight but unveils new possibilities for mitigating the “shuttle effect” of polysulfides thereby promoting the practical applications of Li–S batteries.

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  2. null (Ed.)
    Polysulfide shuttle effect, causing extremely low Coulombic efficiency and cycling stability, is one of the toughest challenges hindering the development of practical lithium sulfur batteries (LSBs). Introducing catalytic nanostructures to stabilize the otherwise soluble polysulfides and promote their conversion to solids has been proved to be an effective strategy in attacking this problem, but the heavy mass of catalysts often results in a low specific energy of the whole electrode. Herein, by designing and synthesizing a free-standing edge-oriented NiCo 2 S 4 /vertical graphene functionalized carbon nanofiber (NCS/EOG/CNF) thin film as a catalytic overlayer incorporated in the sulfur cathode, the polysulfide shuttle effect is largely alleviated, revealed by the enhanced electrochemical performance measurements and the catalytic function demonstration. Different from other reports, the NiCo 2 S 4 nanosheets synthesized here have a 3-D edge-oriented structure with fully exposed edges and easily accessible in-plane surfaces, thus providing a high density of active sites even with a small mass. The EOG/CNF scaffold further renders the high conductivity in the catalytic structure. Combined, this novel structure, with high sulfur loading and high sulfur fraction, leads to high-performance sulfur cathodes toward a practical LSB technology. 
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  3. Conventional lithium-ion batteries are unable to meet the increasing demands for high-energy storage systems, because of their limited theoretical capacity. 1 In recent years, intensive attention has been paid to enhancing battery energy storage capability to satisfy the increasing energy demand in modern society and reduce the average energy capacity cost. Among the candidates for next generation high energy storage systems, the lithium sulfur battery is especially attractive because of its high theoretical specific energy (around 2600 W h kg-1) and potential cost reduction. In addition, sulfur is a cost effective and environmentally friendly material due to its abundance and low-toxicity. 2 Despite all of these advantages, the practical application of lithium sulfur batteries to date has been hindered by a series of obstacles, including low active material loading, poor cycle life, and sluggish sulfur conversion kinetics. 3 Achieving high mass loading cathode in the traditional 2D planar thick electrode has been challenged. The high distorsion of the traditional planar thick electrodes for ion/electron transfer leads to the limited utilization of active materials and high resistance, which eventually results in restricted energy density and accelerated electrode failure. 4 Furthermore, of the electrolyte to pores in the cathode and utilization ratio of active materials. Catalysts such as MnO 2 and Co dopants were employed to accelerate the sulfur conversion reaction during the charge and discharge process. 5 However, catalysts based on transition metals suffer from poor electronic conductivity. Other catalysts such as transition metal dopants are also limited due to the increased process complexities. . In addition, the severe shuttle effects in Li-S batteries may lead to fast failures of the battery. Constructing a protection layer on the separator for limiting the transmission of soluble polysulfides is considered an effective way to eliminate the shuttle phenomenon. However, the soluble sulfides still can largely dissolve around the cathode side causing the sluggish reaction condition for sulfur conversion. 5 To mitigate the issues above, herein we demonstrate a novel sulfur electrode design strategy enabled by additive manufacturing and oxidative vapor deposition (oCVD). Specifically, the electrode is strategically designed into a hierarchal hollow structure via stereolithography technique to increase sulfur usage. The active material concentration loaded to the battery cathode is controlled precisely during 3D printing by adjusting the number of printed layers. Owing to its freedom in geometry and structure, the suggested design is expected to improve the Li ions and electron transport rate considerably, and hence, the battery power density. The printed cathode is sintered at 700 °C at N 2 atmosphere to achieve carbonization of the cathode during which intrinsic carbon defects (e.g., pentagon carbon) as catalytic defect sites are in-situ generated on the cathode. The intrinsic carbon defects equipped with adequate electronic conductivity. The sintered 3D cathode is then transferred to the oCVD chamber for depositing a thin PEDOT layer as a protection layer to restrict dissolutions of sulfur compounds in the cathode. Density functional theory calculation reveals the electronic state variance between the structures with and without defects, the structure with defects demonstrates the higher kinetic condition for sulfur conversion. To further identify the favorable reaction dynamic process, the in-situ XRD is used to characterize the transformation between soluble and insoluble polysulfides, which is the main barrier in the charge and discharge process of Li-S batteries. The results show the oCVD coated 3D printed sulfur cathode exhibits a much higher kinetic process for sulfur conversion, which benefits from the highly tailored hierarchal hollow structure and the defects engineering on the cathode. Further, the oCVD coated 3D printed sulfur cathode also demonstrates higher stability during long cycling enabled by the oCVD PEDOT protection layer, which is verified by an absorption energy calculation of polysulfides at PEDOT. Such modeling and analysis help to elucidate the fundamental mechanisms that govern cathode performance and degradation in Li-S batteries. The current study also provides design strategies for the sulfur cathode as well as selection approaches to novel battery systems. References: Bhargav, A., (2020). Lithium-Sulfur Batteries: Attaining the Critical Metrics. Joule 4 , 285-291. Chung, S.-H., (2018). Progress on the Critical Parameters for Lithium–Sulfur Batteries to be Practically Viable. Advanced Functional Materials 28 , 1801188. Peng, H.-J.,(2017). Review on High-Loading and High-Energy Lithium–Sulfur Batteries. Advanced Energy Materials 7 , 1700260. Chu, T., (2021). 3D printing‐enabled advanced electrode architecture design. Carbon Energy 3 , 424-439. Shi, Z., (2021). Defect Engineering for Expediting Li–S Chemistry: Strategies, Mechanisms, and Perspectives. Advanced Energy Materials 11 . Figure 1 
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  4. Rechargeable lithium–sulfur batteries have emerged as a viable technology for next generation electrochemical energy storage, and the sulfur cathode plays a critical role in determining the device performance. In this study, we prepared functional composites based on polypyrrole-coated MnO 2 nanotubes as a highly efficient sulfur host (sulfur mass loading 63.5%). The hollow interior of the MnO 2 nanotubes not only allowed for accommodation of volumetric changes of sulfur particles during the cycling process, but also confined the diffusion of lithium polysulfides by physical restriction and chemical adsorption, which minimized the loss of polysulfide species. In addition, the polypyrrole outer layer effectively enhanced the electrical conductivity of the cathode to facilitate ion and electron transport. The as-prepared MnO 2 -PPy-S composite delivered an initial specific capacity of 1469 mA h g −1 and maintained an extremely stable cycling performance, with a small capacity decay of merely 0.07% per cycle at 0.2C within 500 cycles, a high average coulombic efficiency of 95.7% and an excellent rate capability at 470 mA h g −1 at the current density of 3C. 
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  5. In Li–S batteries, the insulating nature of sulfur and Li 2 S causes enormous challenges, such as high polarization and low active material utilization. The nucleation of the solid discharge product, Li 2 S, during the discharge cycle, and the activation of Li 2 S in the subsequent charge cycle, cause a potential challenge that needs to be overcome. Moreover, the shuttling of soluble lithium polysulfide intermediate species results in active material loss and early capacity fade. In this study, we have used thiourea as an electrolyte additive and showed that it serves as both a redox mediator to overcome the Li 2 S activation energy barrier and a shuttle inhibitor to mitigate the notorious polysulfide shuttling via the investigation of thiourea redox activity, shuttle current measurements and study of Li 2 S activation. The steady-state shuttle current of the Li–S battery shows a 6-fold drop when 0.02 M thiourea is added to the standard electrolyte. Moreover, by adding thiourea, the charge plateau for the first cycle of the Li 2 S based cathodes shifts from 3.5 V (standard ether electrolyte) to 2.5 V (with 0.2 M thiourea). Using this additive, the capacity of the Li–S battery stabilizes at ∼839 mA h g −1 after 5 cycles and remains stable over 700 cycles with a low capacity decay rate of 0.025% per cycle, a tremendous improvement compared to the reference battery that retains only ∼350 mA h g −1 after 300 cycles. In the end, to demonstrate the practical and broad applicability of thiourea in overcoming sulfur-battery challenges and in eliminating the need for complex electrode design, we study two additional battery systems – lithium metal-free cells with a graphite anode and Li 2 S cathode, and Li–S cells with simple slurry-based cathodes fabricated via blending commercial carbon black/S and a binder. We believe that this study manifests the advantages of redox active electrolyte additives to overcome several bottlenecks in the Li–S battery field. 
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