Alternatives to fluorinated binders: recyclable copolyester/carbonate electrolytes for high-capacity solid composite cathodes

17 January 2024

Chemical Science

Holly Yeo, Georgina L. Gregory, Hui Gao, Kanyapat Yiamsawat, Gregory J. Rees, Thomas McGuire, Mauro Pasta, Peter G. Bruce and Charlotte K. Williams, Chem. Sci., 2024,15, 2371-2379,

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Optimising the composite cathode for next-generation, safe solid-state batteries with inorganic solid electrolytes remains a key challenge towards commercialisation and cell performance. Tackling this issue requires the design of suitable polymer binders for electrode processability and long-term solid–solid interfacial stability. Here, block-polyester/carbonates are systematically designed as Li-ion conducting, high-voltage stable binders for cathode composites comprising of single-crystal LiNi0.8Mn0.1Co0.1O2 cathodes, Li6PS5Cl solid electrolyte and carbon nanofibres. Compared to traditional fluorinated polymer binders, improved discharge capacities (186 mA h g−1) and capacity retention (96.7% over 200 cycles) are achieved. The nature of the new binder electrolytes also enables its separation and complete recycling after use. ABA- and AB-polymeric architectures are compared where the A-blocks are mechanical modifiers, and the B-block facilitates Li-ion transport. This reveals that the conductivity and mechanical properties of the ABA-type are more suited for binder application. Further, catalysed switching between CO2/epoxide A-polycarbonate (PC) synthesis and B-poly(carbonate-r-ester) formation employing caprolactone (CL) and trimethylene carbonate (TMC) identifies an optimal molar mass (50 kg mol−1) and composition (wPC 0.35). This polymer electrolyte binder shows impressive oxidative stability (5.2 V), suitable ionic conductivity (2.2 × 10−4 S cm−1 at 60 °C), and compliant viscoelastic properties for fabrication into high-performance solid composite cathodes. This work presents an attractive route to optimising polymer binder properties using controlled polymerisation strategies combining cyclic monomer (CL, TMC) ring-opening polymerisation and epoxide/CO2 ring-opening copolymerisation. It should also prompt further examination of polycarbonate/ester-based materials with today's most relevant yet demanding high-voltage cathodes and sensitive sulfide-based solid electrolytes.