Electrochemical Lithiation-Delithiation of Sulfur in Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes

Thursday, 1 June 2017: 09:00
Churchill C1 (Hilton New Orleans Riverside)
C. Fu (University of California at Riverside), G. Li (University of California, Riverside), R. C. Haddon (University of California - Riverside), and J. Guo (University of California, Riverside)
Lithium-sulfur (Li-S) batteries are one of the most promising energy storage technologies because of the high theoretical capacity of sulfur as cathode. However, the high electrical resistivity of sulfur and the dissolution of lithium polysulfides into electrolytes are greatly limiting the performance of Li-S batteries. Interestingly, when the sulfur confinement size is smaller than 1 nm, different electrochemical behaviors and excellent cycle stabilities have been observed. However, the mechanism of sub-nano confinement of sulfur has not been investigated in details. Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) with their various pore size, uniform pore size distribution, and excellent electron conductivity are ideal hosts for studying the effect of different sulfur confinement sizes. In this study, we investigate the effect of sulfur confinement size by incorporating sulfur into both EA- (electric arc) and HiPco- (high-pressure carbon monoxide) SWCNTs with diameter of 1.55 ± 0.1 and 1.0 ± 0.2 nm, respectively. Interestingly, when sulfur is incorporated into HiPco-SWCNTs, the polymerized long chain sulfur molecules inside the tubes largely changes the Raman spectra. The giant Raman response from the sulfur provides an ideal opportunity to perform in situ studies on the lithiation-delithiation reactions of the confined sulfur. High-resolution TEM images confirm the chain structure of sulfur in EA- and HiPco-SWCNTs. Cyclic voltammetry and galvanostatic charge–discharge are performed by using different electrolytes, and sulfur in EA- and HiPco-SWCNTs show distinctively different electrochemical behaviors. In situ Raman spectra and ex situ XPS are measured during galvanostatic charge–discharge to investigate the lithiation-delithiation mechanism. A solid-state reaction mechanism was proposed when sulfur is in sub-nano confinement.