Operando FTIR Studies of Electrolyte Solution Structures and Dynamics at Electrode-Electrolyte Interfaces

Ryan Pekarek, Bertrand Tremolet de Villers, Nathan Neale, Sang Don Han

Research output: NRELPoster


The well-stabilized electrode-electrolyte interface (EEI) is critical to battery performance and safety, thus understanding the electrolyte solution structures (e.g., ion solvation and ionic association) and dynamics within EEI is an important area of study. Unfortunately, due to the sensitive nature of the electrodes, ex-situ characterization methods are limited and challenging to interpret as chemical and structural changes occur upon deconstructing the cell. In this work, we present operando characterization of near-surface electrolyte solution structures and dynamics by ATR-FTIR spectroscopy during battery cycling. We studied two selected model electrodes, a lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) or a planar silicon (Si), in a standard Gen2 electrolyte of 1.2 M LiPF6 in ethylene carbonate (EC):ethyl methyl carbonate (EMC) (3:7 wt%). In the former case, the composite cathode on aluminum foil is placed face-down on an ATR crystal. A ring of lithium metal serves as the counter/reference electrode and no separator is required. In the latter case, a lightly doped p-type silicon wafer is phosphorous-doped at the surface to increase the conductivity of the sample without compromising infrared transparency. The ATR crystal is then pressed on the back of the silicon with a minimal air gap to ensure sufficient optical contact between the two materials. The front of wafer is then placed in a modified coin-type cell geometry with a minimal electrolyte, a separator, and a lithium metal counter/reference electrode. In both experiments, we analyze the electrolyte solution structures within the EEI and find similar patterns as a function of potential. Firstly, we find that EMC decomposes faster than EC -suggesting that EMC plays a greater role in the electrochemical reactions on the electrode surface (e.g., formation of a protective layer to prevent further electrolyte decomposition). Secondly, we monitor the increase/decrease of the vibrational absorption peaks attributed to carbonates coordinated with Li+ ions relative to the decrease/increase of their uncoordinated counterparts, as expected when changing the local concentration of Li+ ions near the electrode surface during deintercalation/intercalation into the electrode. Finally, we observe that the features assigned to the Li+-PF6 -/-solvent molecules contact ion pair relative to the uncoordinated PF6 - anion. These observations give important information regarding the electrolyte solution structures and dynamics near the electrode surfaces. We look forward to applying these techniques to additional lithiumion battery systems with different cathode or anode materials and beyond lithium-ion systems to characterize surface chemistry/evolution (on-going research) and solution structures/dynamics (in particular, (de)solvation behaviors) within the EEI, which can be a bottleneck to efficient ion transfer from the electrolyte to the electrode.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NamePresented at the 12th Annual Beyond Lithium-Ion Symposium, 25-27 June, Golden, Colorado

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-5900-74310


  • EEI
  • electrode-electrolyte interface
  • electrolyte
  • in-situ infrared spectroscopy
  • lithium-ion battery
  • silicon anode


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