Towards More Stable and Ion-Conductive Organic Electrolytes for Rechargeable Batteries
The global society urgently needs to remedy the effects of climate change resulting from burning fossil fuels and significantly increase the utilization of renewable energy. Rechargeable batteries are important enablers of sustainable energy use, as they can be employed to store energy generated from renewable but intermittent source. Enhancing the functionality of battery electrolytes, such as (electro)chemical stability and ion conductivity, can improve battery energy density, operation efficiency, and safety. This project explores strategies to improve the stability and ion conductivity of organic electrolytes for rechargeable batteries. Special attention is given to aprotic lithium-oxygen (Li-O2) batteries, which offer theoretical energy densities that are 2 to 4 times increase over the state-of-the-art Li-ion batteries (LIBs). Currently, the practical development of rechargeable Li-O2 batteries is hindered by severe electrolyte degradations. Numerous families of organic solvents, polymers, and ionic liquids have been evaluated as electrolyte candidates; none are stable against the oxygen electrode in Li-O2 batteries. Moreover, the decomposition pathways of many molecules are poorly understood. This project is aimed at understanding the fundamental principles underpinning the (electro)chemical stability and ion conductivity of organic electrolytes for high energy density batteries such as Li-O2 and lithium-ion batteries, and exploring strategies to improve these functionalities.