Research Article

“Water-in-salt” electrolyte enables high-voltage aqueous lithium-ion chemistries

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Science  20 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6263, pp. 938-943
DOI: 10.1126/science.aab1595

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A concentrated effort for battery safety

Aqueous electrolytes are limited to run below 1.23 V to avoid degradation. Suo et al. smash through this limit with an aqueous salt solution containing lithium (Li) bis(trifluoromethane sulfonyl)imide to create an electrolyte that has an electrochemical window of 3 V (see the Perspective by Smith and Dunn). They used extremely high-concentration solutions, which suppressed hydrogen evolution and electrode oxidation. At these concentrations, the Li solvation shell changes because there simply is not enough water to neutralize the Li+ charge. Thus, flammable organic electrolytes could potentially be replaced with a safer aqueous alternative.

Science, this issue p. 938; see also p. 918


Lithium-ion batteries raise safety, environmental, and cost concerns, which mostly arise from their nonaqueous electrolytes. The use of aqueous alternatives is limited by their narrow electrochemical stability window (1.23 volts), which sets an intrinsic limit on the practical voltage and energy output. We report a highly concentrated aqueous electrolyte whose window was expanded to ~3.0 volts with the formation of an electrode-electrolyte interphase. A full lithium-ion battery of 2.3 volts using such an aqueous electrolyte was demonstrated to cycle up to 1000 times, with nearly 100% coulombic efficiency at both low (0.15 C) and high (4.5 C) discharge and charge rates.

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