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Salt-in-Ionic-Liquid electrolytes: ion network formation and negative effective charges of alkali metal cations

  • McEldrew, M
  • Goodwin, ZAH
  • Molinari, N
  • Kozinsky, B
  • Kornyshev, AA
  • Bazant, MZ
Publication Date
Dec 01, 2021
UPCommons. Portal del coneixement obert de la UPC


Salt-in-ionic liquid electrolytes have attracted significant attention as potential electrolytes for next generation batteries largely due to their safety enhancements over typical organic electrolytes. However, recent experimental and computational studies have shown that under certain conditions alkali cations can migrate in electric fields as if they carried a net negative effective charge. In particular, alkali cations were observed to have negative transference numbers at small mole fractions of alkali-metal salt that revert to the expected net positive transference numbers at large mole fractions. Simulations have provided some insights into these observations, where the formation of asymmetric ionic clusters, as well as a percolating ion network, could largely explain the anomalous transport of alkali cations. However, a thermodynamic theory that captures such phenomena has not been developed, as ionic associations were typically treated via the formation of ion pairs. The theory presented herein, based on the classical polymer theories, describes thermoreversible associations between alkali cations and anions, where the formation of large, asymmetric ionic clusters and a percolating ionic network are a natural result of the theory. Furthermore, we present several general methods to calculate the effective charge of alkali cations in ionic liquids. We note that the negative effective charge is a robust prediction with respect to the parameters of the theory and that the formation of a percolating ionic network leads to the restoration of net positive charges of the cations at large mole fractions of alkali metal salt. Overall, we find excellent qualitative agreement between our theory and molecular simulations in terms of ionic cluster statistics and the effective charges of the alkali cations.

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