Ion Transport and the True Transference Number in Nonaqueous Polyelectrolyte Solutions for Lithium-Ion Batteries


Nonaqueous polyelectrolyte solutions have been recently proposed as high Li+ transference number electrolytes for lithium ion batteries. However, the atomistic phenomena governing ion diffusion and migration in polyelectrolytes are poorly understood, particularly in nonaqueous solvents. Here, the structural and transport properties of a model polyelectrolyte solution, poly(allyl glycidyl ether-lithium sulfonate) in dimethyl sulfoxide, are studied using all-atom molecular dynamics simulations. We find that the static structural analysis of Li+ ion pairing is insufficient to fully explain the overall conductivity trend, necessitating a dynamic analysis of the diffusion mechanism, in which we observe a shift from largely vehicular transport to more structural diffusion as the Li+ concentration increases. Furthermore, we demonstrate that despite the significantly higher diffusion coefficient of the lithium ion, the negatively charged polyion is responsible for the majority of the solution conductivity at all concentrations, corresponding to Li+ transference numbers much lower than previously estimated experimentally. We quantify the ion–ion correlations unique to polyelectrolyte systems that are responsible for this surprising behavior. These results highlight the need to reconsider the approximations typically made for transport in polyelectrolyte solutions.

ACS Central Science