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  1. Polymer gel electrolytes (PGE) have seen a renewed interest in their development because they have high ionic conductivities but low electrochemical degradation and flammability. PGEs are formed by mixing a liquid lithium-ion electrolyte with a polymer at a sufficiently large concentration to form a gel. PGEs have been extensively studied, but the direct connection between their microscopic structure and macroscopic properties remains controversial. For example, it is still unknown whether the polymer in the PGE acts as an inert, stabilizing scaffold for the electrolyte or it interacts with the ionic components. Here, a PGE composed of a prototypical lithium-carbonate electrolyte and polyacrylonitrile (PAN) is pursued at both microscopic and macroscopic levels. Specifically, this study focused on describing the microscopic and macroscopic changes in the PGE at different polymer concentrations. The results indicated that the polymer-ion and polymer–polymer interactions are strongly dependent on the concentration of the polymer and the lithium salt. In particular, the polymer interacts with itself at very high PAN concentrations (10% weight) resulting in a viscous gel. However, the conductivity and dynamics of the electrolyte liquid components are significantly less affected by the addition of the polymer. The observations are explained in terms of the PGE structure,more »which transitions from a polymer solution to a gel, containing a polymer matrix and disperse electrolyte, at low and high PAN concentrations, respectively. The results highlight the critical role that the polymer concentration plays in determining both the macroscopic properties of the system and the molecular structure of the PGE.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 14, 2024
  2. The conduction mechanism of a family of high concentration lithium electrolytes (HCEs) is investigated. It is found in all HCEs that the molecular motions are regulated by the anion size and correlated to the HCE ionic resistivity. From the results, a mechanism involving highly correlated ionic networks is derived.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 9, 2024
  3. Acid–base chemistry has immense importance for explaining and predicting the chemical products formed by an acid and a base when mixed together. However, the traditional chemistry theories used to describe acid–base reactions do not take into account the effect arising from the quantum mechanical nature of the acidic hydrogen shuttling potential and its dependence on the acid base distance. Here, infrared and NMR spectroscopies, in combination with first principles simulations, are performed to demonstrate that quantum mechanical effects, including electronic and nuclear quantum effects, play an essential role in defining the acid–base chemistry when 1-methylimidazole and acetic acid are mixed together. In particular, it is observed that the acid and the base interact to form a complex containing a strong hydrogen bond, in which the acidic hydrogen atom is neither close to the acid nor to the base, but delocalized between them. In addition, the delocalization of the acidic hydrogen atom in the complex leads to characteristic IR and NMR signatures. The presence of a hydrogen delocalized state in this simple system challenges the conventional knowledge of acid–base chemistry and opens up new avenues for designing materials in which specific properties produced by the hydrogen delocalized state can be harvested.