Lithium (Li) metal is an ideal anode material for rechargeable batteries due to its extremely high theoretical specific capacity (3860 mAh/g), low density (0.59 g/cm3
) and the lowest negative electrochemical potential (-3.04 V vs. the standard hydrogen electrode, SHE). Li battery based on Li metal anode is expected to have an order of magnitude higher energy density than today's Li-ion battery. This will enhance energy and power capability of battery devices used in portable electronics, hybrid electric cars, aerospace, telecommunication, military, etc.). The Li metal battery will fulfill the high energy demand that cannot be met through the current Li-ion batteries (e.g. all electric transportation or many other applications which require light weight, high energy density, high power density batteries with small battery footprint and safest). But, to date, uncontrolled dendritic Li growth and limited Coulombic efficiency (CE) during Li deposition/stripping of a bulk Li anode, are the main reason behind low cycle life, which has limited their practical applications. Furthermore, the rate of dendrite growth gets amplified when the cell is cycled at high charge-discharge current density, high charge voltage, and high areal discharge. Increasing anode surface area would reduce the effective charge/discharge current. Additionally, thin films and high surface area Li anodes exhibit high ionic and electronic conductivity contributing to the high efficiency of the current collection required for high capacity battery. Although low CE can be partially compensated by an excess amount of Li (at the expense of lower useable Li energy), fire and other hazards associated with the dendrite growth have limited the development of rechargeable Li metal batteries. Most approaches to dendrite prevention focus on improving the stability and uniformity of the solid-electrolyte interface (SEI) on the bulk Li surface by adjusting electrolyte components and optimizing SEI formation additives. It is very difficult to achieve sufficient passivation on Li electrode due to the thermodynamic instability of Li with electrolytes [1,2]. As an alternative, various mechanical barriers have been proposed to block dendrite penetration . These approaches rely on a strong mechanical barrier provided by an SEI film or a separator to suppress Li dendrite penetration but do not change the fundamental, self-amplifying behavior of the dendrite growth. Also, it is hard to find a mechanical barrier material with required shear modulus (required > 109
Pa) with desired conductivity. In other words, these methods did not prevent Li dendrites from growing during long-term cycling at high charge-discharge current density, high charge voltage, and high areal discharge, or hardly improved the CE and safety in Li deposition/stripping which is not suitable for practical rechargeable Li batteries .
We have developed a novel ionic-electronic-mechanical membrane (an artificial SEI), which allows long-term Li cycleability and improved safety by reducing dendrite formation. The new artificial SEI is comprised of three different materials to fulfill the desired SEI criteria such as: (a) facilitate uniform Li ion dispersion and deposition on entire Li surface, (b) desired SEI conductivity (c) mechanical separation of Li and electrolyte and flexibility to contain anode volume change during Li stripping and deposition. The combined effect of the invented SEI result into more than 300% increase in number of cycles and 3-4 times increase in usable Li energy density (i.e. high Coulombic efficiency (CE)) of a wet battery composed of protected Li metal anode, liquid electrolyte (e.g. lithium hexafluoro arsenate, LiAsF6) and Li-ion cathode (e.g. lithium cobalt oxide, LCO) for the advancement of a battery beyond the state-of-the-art Li-ion battery. The added advantage of the invented SEI is improved safety due to suppression of dendrite growth by mechanically strong/flexible SEI and controlled, uniform deposition/stripping of Li from Li anode surface.
The protected Li anode may be incorporated into wet cell batteries or solid state batteries having transition metal oxide cathodes (more specifically the state-of-the-art Li-ion cathodes) or Sulfur cathode (Li-S battery) or Oxygen cathode (Li-O2 battery). Moreover, similar methodologies can be applied to other rechargeable metal anodes (Na, Al, Mg, etc.) used in batteries.
 W. Xu, J. Wang, F. Ding, X Chen, E.N. Nasybulin, Y. Zhang, J. Zhang,“lithium metal anodes for rechargeable batteries”, Energy Environ. Sci., 7, 2014, 513.
 G. Zheng, S.W. Lee, Z. Liang, H-W. Lee, K. Yan, H. Yao, H. Wang, W. Li, S. Chu, Y. Cui,“interconnected hollow carbon nanospheres for stable lithium metal anodes”, Nature Nanotechnology, DOI: 10.1038/NNANO.2014.152.
 B. Kumar, J. Kumar, R. Leese, J.P. Fellner, S. Rodrigues, K.M. Abraham, “A solid-state, rechargeable, long cycle life lithium-air battery”, J. Electrochem. Soc., 157, 2010, A50.