Indexed on: 31 May '17Published on: 31 May '17Published in: ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces
Electrolyte decomposition reactions on Li-ion battery electrodes contribute to the formation of solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) layers. These SEI layers are one of the known causes for the loss in battery voltage and capacity over repeated charge/discharge cycles. In this work, density functional theory (DFT)-based ab-initio calculations are applied to study the initial steps of the decomposition of the organic electrolyte component ethylene carbonate (EC) on the (10-14) surface of a layered Li(Nix,Mny,Co1-x-y)O2 (NMC) cathode crystal, which is commonly used in commercial Li-ion batteries. The effects on the EC reaction pathway due to dissolved Li+ ions in the electrolyte solution and different NMC cathode surface terminations containing adsorbed hydroxyl -OH or fluorine -F species are explicitly considered. We predict a very fast chemical reaction consisting of an EC ring-opening process on the bare cathode surface, the rate of which is independent of the battery operation voltage. This EC ring-opening reaction is unavoidable once the cathode material contacts with the electrolyte because this process is purely chemical rather than electrochemical in nature. The -OH and -F adsorbed species display a passivation effect on the surface against the reaction with EC, but the extent is limited except for the case of -OH bonded to a surface transition metal atom. Our work implies that the possible rate-limiting steps of the electrolyte molecule decomposition are the reactions on the decomposed organic products on the cathode surface rather than on the bare cathode surface.