(352c) Investigation of Gel Polymer Electrolyte Failure Mechanism in Lithium-Sulfur Batteries

Zamani, S., Cornell University
Shebert, G., Cornell University
Joo, Y. L., Cornell University
Investigation of gel polymer electrolyte failure mechanism in Lithium-Sulfur batteries

Somayeh Zamani, George Shebert and Yong Lak Joo

2019 AIChE Annual Meeting

Lithium sulfur (Li-S) batteries are a promising candidate for next-generation energy storage due to their high theoretical energy density. However, well-known challenges such as polysulfide crossover, large volume changes during cycling, lithium dendrite growth, and passivation of reaction sites limit the capacity and capacity retention of Li-S batteries. One approach to address these issues is to use gel polymer electrolyte (GPE) in place of the typical liquid electrolyte. It is believed that GPE can reduce the dissolution and diffusion of the intermediate polysulfides and enhance the capacity retention in Li-S batteries, but additional research is needed. In particular, the difference in failure mechanisms between GPE and liquid electrolyte cells is not well understood, which is important knowledge for the rational design of high performance GPE cells.

We have investigated the effects of gel polymer electrolyte on lithium-sulfur coin cell failure mechanisms. In particular, we used a discharge test with pauses to probe how the choice of electrolyte affected the amount of capacity recovered due to the pause. After discharging normally until failure, the cell was paused for some time, after which discharge was restarted until the second and final failure. Gel polymer electrolyte was found to have a higher percentage capacity recovery after pausing than liquid electrolyte, and that recovery improved at higher C-rates. Large percentage capacities recoveries suggest that mass transport limitations are leading to cell failure rather than cathode passivation as is frequently proposed. To help explain this behavior, we use a 1-dimension + time numerical continuum model for the Li-S full cell that includes the pausing step. The model includes the electrochemical reactions and precipitation of sulfur and intermediate polysulfide species, transport of species through the battery, and the effect of mass transport limitations on cell failure. The simulations show that variations in the bulk polysulfide diffusion coefficients can explain many of the differences between GPE and liquid electrolyte experimental results, and further confirm that mass transport limitations are a critical obstacle in improving the performance of GPE Li-S batteries.