Microbe-Assisted Nanocomposite Anodes for Aqueous Li-Ion Batteries

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ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces







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With the rapid increase in the use of lithium-ion batteries (LIBs), the development of safe LIBs has become an important social issue. Replacing flammable organic liquid electrolytes in current LIBs with water can be an alternative route to resolve this safety concern. The water-in-salt (WIS) electrolytes received great attention as next-generation electrolytes due to their large electrochemical stability window. However, their high cathodic limit remains as a challenge, impeding the use of low-potential anodes. Here, we report the first biodirected synthesis of carbonaceous layers on anodes to use them as interlayers that prevent a direct contact of water molecules to anode particles. High-aspect ratio microbes are utilized as precursors of carbonaceous layers on TiO2 nanoparticles (m-TiO2) to enhance the conductivity and to reduce the electrolysis of WIS electrolytes. We selected the cylindrical shape of microbes that offers geometric diversity, providing us a toolkit to investigate the effect of microbe length in forming the network in binary composites and their impacts on the battery performance with WIS electrolytes. Using microbes with varying aspect ratios, the optimal microbe size to maximize the battery performance is determined. The effects of storage time on microbe size are also studied. Compared to uncoated TiO2 anodes, m-TiO2 exhibited 49% higher capacity at the 40th cycle and enhanced the cycle life close to anodes made with a conventional carbon precursor while using an 11% less amount of carbon. We performed density functional theory calculations to unravel the underlying mechanism of the performance improvement using microbe-derived carbon layers. Computational results show that high amounts of pyridinic nitrogen present in the peptide bonds in microbes are expected to slow down the water diffusion. Our findings provide key insights into the design of an interlayer for WIS anodes and open an avenue to fabricate energy storage materials using biomaterials.

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U.S. Department of Energy


aqueous battery, biomaterials, lithium-ion batteries, microbial composites, water-in-salt electrolyte


Chemical and Materials Engineering