skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on December 27, 2024

Title: Phase-Field Simulation of a Dynamic Protective Layer for the Inhibition of Dendrite Growth in Zinc Metal Batteries
Metallic zinc (Zn) has been considered one of the most promising anode materials for next-generation aqueous Zn batteries due to its low redox potential and high storage capacity. However, excessive dendrite formation in Zn metal, corrosion, the evolution of hydrogen gas during the cycling process, and the poor Zn-ions (Zn2+) transport from the electrolyte to the electrode limits its practical application. One of the most effective strategies to suppress Zn dendrite growth and promote Zn2+ transport is to introduce suitable protective layers between the Zn metal electrode and the electrolyte. Herein, we mathematically simulated the dynamic interactions between the Zn deposition on the anode and the resulting displacement of a protective layer that covers the anode, the latter of which can simultaneously inhibit Zn dendrite growth and enhance the Zn2+ transport through the interface between Zn anode and the protective layer. Our simulation results indicate that a protective layer of high Zn2+ diffusivity not only improves the deposition rate of the Zn metal but also prevents the dendrite growth by homogenizing the Zn2+ concentration at the anode surface. In addition, it is revealed that the anisotropic Zn2+ diffusivity in the protective layer influences the 2D diffusion of Zn2+. Higher Zn2+ diffusivity perpendicular to the Zn metal surface inhibits the dendrite growth, while higher diffusivity parallel to the Zn metal surface promotes dendrite growth. Our work thus provides a fundamental understanding and a design principle of controlling anisotropic Zn2+ diffusion in the protective layer for better suppression of dendrite growth in Zn metal batteries.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Publisher / Repository:
American Chemical Society
Date Published:
Journal Name:
ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces
Page Range / eLocation ID:
59329 to 59336
Subject(s) / Keyword(s):
["phase-field simulation, zinc metal battery, dendrites growth, anisotropic diffusion, protective layer"]
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Ever-increasing demands for energy, particularly being environmentally friendly have promoted the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.1Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs), arguably the most well-studied energy storage system, have dominated the energy market since their advent in the 1990s.2However, challenging issues regarding safety, supply of lithium, and high price of lithium resources limit the further advancement of LIBs for large-scale energy storage applications.3Therefore, attention is being concentrated on an alternative electrochemical energy storage device that features high safety, low cost, and long cycle life. Rechargeable aqueous zinc-ion batteries (ZIBs) is considered one of the most promising alternative energy storage systems due to the high theoretical energy and power densities where the multiple electrons (Zn2+) . In addition, aqueous ZIBs are safer due to non-flammable electrolyte (e.g., typically aqueous solution) and can be manufactured since they can be assembled in ambient air conditions.4As an essential component in aqueous Zn-based batteries, the Zn metal anode generally suffers from the growth of dendrites, which would affect battery performance in several ways. Second, the led by the loose structure of Zn dendrite may reduce the coulombic efficiency and shorten the battery lifespan.5

    Several approaches were suggested to improve the electrochemical stability of ZIBs, such as implementing an interfacial buffer layer that separates the active Zn from the bulk electrolyte.6However, the and thick thickness of the conventional Zn metal foils remain a critical challenge in this field, which may diminish the energy density of the battery drastically. According to a theretical calculation, the thickness of a Zn metal anode with an areal capacity of 1 mAh cm-2is about 1.7 μm. However, existing extrusion-based fabrication technologies are not capable of downscaling the thickness Zn metal foils below 20 μm.

    Herein, we demonstrate a thickness controllable coating approach to fabricate an ultrathin Zn metal anode as well as a thin dielectric oxide separator. First, a 1.7 μm Zn layer was uniformly thermally evaporated onto a Cu foil. Then, Al2O3, the separator was deposited through sputtering on the Zn layer to a thickness of 10 nm. The inert and high hardness Al2O3layer is expected to lower the polarization and restrain the growth of Zn dendrites. Atomic force microscopy was employed to evaluate the roughness of the surface of the deposited Zn and Al2O3/Zn anode structures. Long-term cycling stability was gauged under the symmetrical cells at 0.5 mA cm-2for 1 mAh cm-2. Then the fabricated Zn anode was paired with MnO2as a full cell for further electrochemical performance testing. To investigate the evolution of the interface between the Zn anode and the electrolyte, a home-developed in-situ optical observation battery cage was employed to record and compare the process of Zn deposition on the anodes of the Al2O3/Zn (demonstrated in this study) and the procured thick Zn anode. The surface morphology of the two Zn anodes after circulation was characterized and compared through scanning electron microscopy. The tunable ultrathin Zn metal anode with enhanced anode stability provides a pathway for future high-energy-density Zn-ion batteries.

    Obama, B., The irreversible momentum of clean energy.Science2017,355(6321), 126-129.

    Goodenough, J. B.; Park, K. S., The Li-ion rechargeable battery: a perspective.J Am Chem Soc2013,135(4), 1167-76.

    Li, C.; Xie, X.; Liang, S.; Zhou, J., Issues and Future Perspective on Zinc Metal Anode for Rechargeable Aqueous Zinc‐ion Batteries.Energy & Environmental Materials2020,3(2), 146-159.

    Jia, H.; Wang, Z.; Tawiah, B.; Wang, Y.; Chan, C.-Y.; Fei, B.; Pan, F., Recent advances in zinc anodes for high-performance aqueous Zn-ion batteries.Nano Energy2020,70.

    Yang, J.; Yin, B.; Sun, Y.; Pan, H.; Sun, W.; Jia, B.; Zhang, S.; Ma, T., Zinc Anode for Mild Aqueous Zinc-Ion Batteries: Challenges, Strategies, and Perspectives.Nanomicro Lett2022,14(1), 42.

    Yang, Q.; Li, Q.; Liu, Z.; Wang, D.; Guo, Y.; Li, X.; Tang, Y.; Li, H.; Dong, B.; Zhi, C., Dendrites in Zn-Based Batteries.Adv Mater2020,32(48), e2001854.


    This work was partially supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) Award No. ECCS-1931088. S.L. and H.W.S. acknowledge the support from the Improvement of Measurement Standards and Technology for Mechanical Metrology (Grant No. 22011044) by KRISS.

    Figure 1


    more » « less
  2. Metal-ion batteries (e.g., lithium and sodium ion batteries) are the promising power sources for portable electronics, electric vehicles, and smart grids. Recent metal-ion batteries with organic liquid electrolytes still suffer from safety issues regarding inflammability and insufficient lifetime.1 As the next generation energy storage devices, all-solid-state batteries (ASSBs) have promising potentials for the improved safety, higher energy density, and longer cycle life than conventional Li-ion batteries.2 The nonflammable solid electrolytes (SEs), where only Li ions are mobile, could prevent battery combustion and explosion since the side reactions that cause safety issues as well as degradation of the battery performance are largely suppressed. However, their practical application is hampered by the high resistance arising at the solid–solid electrode–electrolyte interface (including cathode-electrolyte interface and anode-electrolyte interface).3 Several methods have been introduced to optimize the contact capability as well as the electrochemical/chemical stability between the metal anodes (i.e.: Li and Na) and the SEs, which exhibited decent results in decreasing the charge transfer resistance and broadening the range of the stable energy window (i.e., lowing the chemical potential of metal anode below the highest occupied molecular orbital of the SEs).4 Nevertheless, mitigation for the cathode in ASSB is tardily developed because: (1) the porous structure of the cathode is hard to be infiltrated by SEs;5 (2) SEs would be oxidized and decomposed by the high valence state elements at the surface of the cathode at high state of charge.5 Herein, we demonstrate a universal cathode design strategy to achieve superior contact capability and high electrochemical/chemical stability with SEs. Stereolithography is adopted as a manufacturing technique to realize a hierarchical three-dimensional (HTD) electrode architecture with micro-size channels, which is expected to provide larger contact areas with SEs. Then, the manufactured cathode is sintered at 700 °C in a reducing atmosphere (e.g.: H2) to accomplish the carbonization of the resin, delivering sufficiently high electronic conductivity for the cathode. To avoid the direct exposure of the cathode active materials to the SEs, oxidative chemical vapor deposition technique (oCVD) is leveraged to build conformal and highly conducting poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT) on the surface of the HTD cathode.6 To demonstrate our design strategy, both NCM811 and Na3V2(PO4)3 is selected as active materials in the HTD cathode, then each cathode is paired with organic (polyacrylonitrile-based) and inorganic (sulfur-based) SEs assembled into two batteries (total four batteries). SEM and TEM reveal the micro-size HTD structure with built-in channels. Featured by the HTD architecture, the intrinsic kinetic and thermodynamic conditions will be enhanced by larger surface contact areas, more active sites, improved infusion and electrolyte ion accessibility, and larger volume expansion capability. Disclosed by X-ray computed tomography, the interface between cathode and SEs in the four modified samples demonstrates higher homogeneity at the interface between the cathode and SEs than that of all other pristine samples. Atomic force microscopy is employed to measure the potential image of the cross-sectional interface by the peak force tapping mode. The average potential of modified samples is lower than that of pristine samples, which confirms a weakened space charge layer by the enhanced contact capability. In addition, through Electron Energy Loss Spectroscopy coupled with Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy, the preserved interface between HTD cathode and SE is identified; however, the decomposing of the pristine cathode is clearly observed. In addition, Finite element method simulations validate that the diffusion dynamics of lithium ions is favored by HTD structure. Such a demonstrated universal strategy provides a new guideline to engineer cathode electrolyte interface by reconstructing electrode structures that can be applicable to all solid-state batteries in a wide range of chemical conditions. 
    more » « less
  3. Lithium metal as an anode has been widely accepted due to its higher negative electrochemical potential and theoretical capacity. Nevertheless, the existing safety and cyclability issues limit lithium metal anodes from practical use in high-energy density batteries. Repeated Li deposition and dissolution processes upon cycling lead to the formation of dendrites at the interface which results in reduced Li availability for electrochemical reactions, disruption in Li transport through the interface and increased safety concerns due to short circuiting. Here, we demonstrate a novel strategy using Ionic Liquid Crystals (ILCs) as the electrolyte cum pseudo-separator to suppress dendrite growth with their anisotropic properties controlling Li-ion mass transport. A thermotropic ILC with two-dimensional Li-ion conducting pathways was synthesized and characterized. Microscopic and spectroscopic analyses elucidate that the ILC formed with a smectic A phase, which can be utilized for wide temperature window operation. The results of electrochemical studies corroborate the efficacy of ILC electrolytes in mitigating dendrite formation even after 850 hours and it is further substantiated by numerical simulation and the mechanism involved in dendritic suppression was deduced. 
    more » « less
  4. Enhancing battery energy storage capability and reducing the cost per average energy capacity is urgent to satisfy the increasing energy demand in modern society. The lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery is especially attractive because of its high theoretical specific energy (around 2600 W h kg-1), low cost, and low toxicity.1 Despite these advantages, the practical utilization of lithium-sulfur (Li-S) batteries to date has been hindered by a series of obstacles, including low active material loading, shuttle effects, and sluggish sulfur conversion kinetics.2 The traditional 2D planer thick electrode is considered as a general approach to enhance the mass loading of the Li-S battery.3 However, the longer diffusion length of lithium ions, which resulted in high tortuosity in the compact stacking thick electrode, decreases the penetration ability of the electrolyte into the entire cathode.4 Although an effort to induce catalysts in the cathode was made to promote sulfur conversion kinetic conditions, catalysts based on transition metals suffered from the low electronic conductivity, and some elements (i.e.: Co, Mn) may even absorb and restrict polysulfides for further reaction. 5 To mitigate the issues listed above, herein we propose a novel sulfur cathode design strategy enabled by additive manufacturing and oxidative chemical vapor deposition (oCVD). 6,7 Specifically, the cathode is designed to have a hierarchal hollow structure via a stereolithography technique to increase sulfur usage. Microchannels are constructed on the tailored sulfur cathode to further fortify the wettability of the electrolyte. The as-printed cathode is then sintered at 700 °C in an N2 atmosphere in order to generate a carbon skeleton (i.e.: carbonization of resin) with intrinsic carbon defects. The intrinsic carbon defects are expected to create favorable sulfur conversion conditions with sufficient electronic conductivity. In this study, the oCVD technique is leveraged to produce a conformal coating layer to eliminate shuttle effects. Identified by scanning electron microscopy and energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy mapping characterizations, the oCVD PEDOT is not only covered on the surface of the cathode but also on the inner surface of the microchannels. High-resolution x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy analyses (C 1s and S 2p orbitals) between pristine and modified samples demonstrate that a high concentration of the defects has been produced on the sulfur matrix after sintering and posttreatment. In-operando XRD diffractograms show that the Li2S is generated in the oCVD PEDOT-coated sample during the charge and discharge process even with a high current density, confirming an eminent sulfur conversion kinetic condition. In addition, ICP-OES results of lithium metal anode at different states of charge (SoC) verify that the shuttle effects are excellently restricted by oCVD PEDOT. Overall, the high mass loading (> 5 mg cm-2) with an elevated sulfur utilization ratio, accelerated reaction kinetics and stabilized electrochemical process have been achieved on the sulfur cathode by implementing this innovative cathode design strategy. The results of this study demonstrate significant promises of employing pure sulfur powder with high electrochemical performance and suggest a pathway to the higher energy and power density battery. References: 1 Chen, Y. Adv Mater 33, e2003666. 2 Bhargav, A. Joule 4, 285-291. 3 Liu, S. Nano Energy 63, 103894. 4 Chu, T. Carbon Energy 3. 5 Li, Y. Matter 4, 1142-1188. 6 John P. Lock. Macromolecules 39, 4 (2006). 7 Zekoll, S. Energy & Environmental Science 11, 185-201. 
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Metal anode instability, including dendrite growth, metal corrosion, and hetero-ions interference, occurring at the electrolyte/electrode interface of aqueous batteries, are among the most critical issues hindering their widespread use in energy storage. Herein, a universal strategy is proposed to overcome the anode instability issues by rationally designing alloyed materials, using Zn-M alloys as model systems (M = Mn and other transition metals). An in-situ optical visualization coupled with finite element analysis is utilized to mimic actual electrochemical environments analogous to the actual aqueous batteries and analyze the complex electrochemical behaviors. The Zn-Mn alloy anodes achieved stability over thousands of cycles even under harsh electrochemical conditions, including testing in seawater-based aqueous electrolytes and using a high current density of 80 mA cm−2. The proposed design strategy and the in-situ visualization protocol for the observation of dendrite growth set up a new milestone in developing durable electrodes for aqueous batteries and beyond.

    more » « less