Atomistic Modeling of the Electrode–Electrolyte Interface in Li-Ion Energy Storage Systems: Electrolyte Structuring
The solid electrolyte interface (SEI) forms as a result of side reactions between the electrolyte and electrode surfaces in Li-ion batteries and can adversely impact performance by impeding Li-ion transport and diminishing the storage capacity of the battery. To gain a detailed understanding of the impact of the SEI on electrolyte structure, atomistic molecular dynamics simulations of the electrode/electrolyte interface were performed in the presence and absence of the SEI under applied voltages. The composition of the SEI was guided by a wealth of data from experiments and allowed to vary across the simulations. A novel computational approach was implemented that showed significant computational speedup compared to fully polarizable electrode simulations, yet, retained the correct qualitative physics for the electrolyte. A force-matching algorithm was used to construct a new force field for the pure electrolyte, LiPF6 in ethylene carbonate, which was developed from ab initio molecular dynamics simulations. The electrode/electrolyte interface was included using a simple, physically motivated model, which includes the polarization of the conducting graphitic electrode by the electrolyte and the application of an external voltage. Changes in the structure of the electrolyte at the interface as a function of applied voltage, the thickness of the SEI layer, and composition of the SEI provide molecular level insight into the species present at these interfaces and potential clues to the effect of the SEI on transport. It is noted that, with increasing SEI thickness and LiF content, lithium ions are drawn closer to the SEI surface, which implies that these interfaces favor desolvation and promote more rapid lithium transport.