Rivalry at the Interface: Ion Desolvation and Electrolyte Degradation in Model Ethylene Carbonate Complexes of Li+,Na+, and Mg2+ with PF6 − on the Li4Ti5O12 (111) Surface

Authors: Hristo Rasheev, Radostina Stoyanova and Alia Tajer

Abstarct: Spinel lithium titanate, Li4Ti5O12 (LTO), emerges as a “universal” electrode material for Li-ion batteries and hybrid Li/Na-, Li/Mg-, and Na/Mg-ion batteries functioning on the basis of intercalation. Given that LTO operates in a variety of electrolyte solutions, the main challenge is to understand the reactivity of the LTO surface toward single- and dual-cation electrolytes at the molecular level. This study first reports results on ion desolvation and electrolyte solvent/salt degradation on an LTO surface by means of periodic DFT calculations. The desolvation stages are modeled by the adsorption of mono- and binuclear complexes of Li+, Na+, and Mg2+ with a limited number of ethylene carbonate (EC) solvent molecules on the oxygen-terminated LTO (111) surface, taking into account the presence of a PF6 counterion. Alongside cation adsorption, several degradation reactions are discussed: surface-catalyzed dehydrogenation of EC molecules, simultaneous dehydrogenation and fluorination of EC, and Mg2+-induced decay of PF6 to PF5 and F. Data analysis allows the rationalization of existing experimentally established phenomena such as gassing and fluoride deposition. Among the three investigated cations, Mg2+ is adsorbed most tightly and is predicted to form a thicker fluoride-containing film on the LTO surface. Gassing, characteristic for carbonate-based electrolytes with LTO electrodes, is foreseen to be suppressed in dual-cation batteries. The latter bears promise to outperform the single-ion ones in terms of durability and safety.

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