Creating an artificial cathode-electrolyte interface (CEI) from self-assembled monolayers of phosphonic acids offers a promising avenue to prevent capacity loss in Li-ion batteries due to metal dissolution from the cathode. A complete theoretical description of the complex and inherently multi-scale interface between the battery electrode surface and an organic electrolyte can enable rational design of such functionalized cathode coatings. We first present a microscopically informed continuum model for organic electrolyte [1,2] which reproduces key solvation phenomena relevant to battery operation. We go on to predict how the structure and energetics of the metal oxide cathode in Li-ion batteries change due to the presence of liquid electrolyte. We find that compared to vacuum calculations , the voltage stability window of the Li-terminated (001) and (111) surfaces of the spinel LiMn2
(LMO) cathode in solution is enhanced. Furthermore, we demonstrate that our solvation model, in combination with density-functional theory and classical molecular dynamics, simultaneously captures both the formation of a stable artificial CEI on the LMO surface and the interaction of the CEI molecules with the electrolyte. Our theoretical description captures the experimentally observed trends in solubility and cyclic voltammetry of the coated LMO surface, demonstrating how adjusting the length and functionalization of the phosphonates can balance the competing needs of maximizing Li-ion conductivity but minimizing cathode dissolution.
Use of the Center for Nanoscale Materials, an Office of Science user facility, was supported by the U. S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, under Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357.
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