Effect of H+ Exchange & Surface Impurities on Bulk & Interfacial Electrochemistry of Garnet Solid Electrolytes


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Contact loss and current constriction pose significant challenges at the Li metal interface of solid-state batteries. For garnet-structured Li7La3Zr2O12 (LLZO), these effects are amplified by Li+/H+ exchange and surface contamination reactions, which lead to conductivity losses and poor Li wetting. In this study, we utilize a variety of surface treatment processes across 37 cells to selectively induce proton exchange and contamination reactions in LLZO. The resulting bulk and surface chemistry is systematically characterized and correlated to changes in electrochemical properties. Additionally, we combine impedance analysis and finite element method modeling to deconvolute sources of impedance contributions at the Li metal interface. Specifically, we show that constriction impedance at the Li metal interface arises not solely from voids, but also from ionically-resistive surface contaminants. These findings emphasize the connection between ionic conductivity and constriction, demonstrating that micron-scale ionically-resistive components increase constriction even with identical contact geometries. Finally, we leverage our comprehensive dataset to highlight unstable overpotential growth as a failure mechanism, additionally showing that the phase of a cell’s impedance is a sensitive indicator for the onset of interfacial instability. Overall, this study clarifies the impacts of proton exchange and surface contamination on electrochemical properties at the Li|solid electrolyte interface and elucidates insights that are generalizable to other solid-state battery systems.
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