This inorganic additive appears to act as a superior SEI promoter.

Lithium dinitramide, LiN(NO2)2 has shown promise as an additive to nonaqueous electrolytes in rechargeable and non-rechargeable lithium-ion-based electrochemical power cells. Such non-aqueous electrolytes consist of lithium salts dissolved in mixtures of organic ethers, esters, carbonates, or acetals. The benefits of adding lithium dinitramide (which is also a lithium salt) include lower irreversible loss of capacity on the first charge/discharge cycle, higher cycle life, lower self-discharge, greater flexibility in selection of electrolyte solvents, and greater charge capacity.

The need for a suitable electrolyte additive arises as follows: The metallic lithium in the anode of a lithium-ion-based power cell is so highly reactive that in addition to the desired main electrochemical reaction, it engages in side reactions that cause formation of resistive films and dendrites, which degrade performance as quantified in terms of charge capacity, cycle life, shelf life, first-cycle irreversible capacity loss, specific power, and specific energy. The incidence of side reactions can be reduced through the formation of a solid-electrolyte interface (SEI) — a thin film that prevents direct contact between the lithium anode material and the electrolyte. Ideally, an SEI should chemically protect the anode and the electrolyte from each other while exhibiting high conductivity for lithium ions and little or no conductivity for electrons. A suitable additive can act as an SEI promoter.

Heretofore, most SEI promotion was thought to derive from organic molecules in electrolyte solutions. In contrast, lithium dinitramide is inorganic. Dinitramide compounds are known as oxidizers in rocket-fuel chemistry and until now, were not known as SEI promoters in battery chemistry. Although the exact reason for the improvement afforded by the addition of lithium dinitramide is not clear, it has been hypothesized that lithium dinitramide competes with other electrolyte constituents to react with lithium on the surface of the anode to form a beneficial SEI. Apparently, nitrides and oxides that result from reduction of lithium dinitramide on the anode produce a thin, robust SEI different from the SEIs formed from organic SEI promoters. The SEI formed from lithium dinitramide is more electronically insulating than is the film formed in the presence of an otherwise identical electrolyte that does not include lithium dinitramide. SEI promotion with lithium dinitramide is useful in batteries with metallic lithium and lithium alloy anodes.

This work was done by Alexander A. Gorkovenko of Material Methods LLC for Glenn Research Center.

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