Plates of a solid electrolyte that exhibits high conductivity for positive lithium ions can now be passivated to prevent them from reacting with metallic lithium. Such passivation could enable the construction and operation of high-performance, long-life lithium-based rechargeable electrochemical cells containing metallic lithium anodes. The advantage of this approach, in comparison with a possible alternative approach utilizing lithium-ion graphitic anodes, is that metallic lithium anodes could afford significantly greater energy-storage densities. A major impediment to the development of such cells has been the fact that the available solid electrolytes having the requisite high Li(exp +)-ion conductivity are too highly chemically reactive with metallic lithium to be useful, while those solid electrolytes that do not react excessively with metallic lithium have conductivities too low to be useful. The present passivation method exploits the best features of both extremes of the solid-electrolyte spectrum. The basic idea is to coat a higher-conductivity, higher-reactivity solid electrolyte with a lower-conductivity, lower-reactivity solid electrolyte. One can then safely deposit metallic lithium in contact with the lower-reactivity solid electrolyte without incurring the undesired chemical reactions. The thickness of the lower-reactivity electrolyte must be great enough to afford the desired passivation but not so great as to contribute excessively to the electrical resistance of the cell. The feasibility of this method was demonstrated in experiments on plates of a commercial high-performance solid Li(exp +)- conducting electrolyte. Lithium phosphorous oxynitride (LiPON) was the solid electrolyte used for passivation. LiPON-coated solid-electrolyte plates were found to support electrochemical plating and stripping of Li metal. The electrical resistance contributed by the LiPON layers were found to be small relative to overall cell impedances.
Electronics and Electrical Engineering
NASA Tech Briefs, June 2008; 22-23