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Polyacrylonitrile-based electrolytes: How processing and residual solvent affect ion transport and stability

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Journal of Power Sources
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Polyacrylonitrile (PAN) is one of the alternative candidate polymer hosts to form solid polymer electrolytes (SPEs) besides the widely used poly(ethylene oxide). In this study, we systematically investigate the processing of PAN based SPEs containing lithium bis(trifluoromethanesulfonyl)imide (LiTFSI) salt, using dimethylformamide (DMF) as the solvent. The effects of PAN processing procedure including solution mixing, casting, and drying on the morphology, ion transport, solvation structure, Li and oxidative stability of PAN electrolytes are thoroughly examined. In particular, four drying conditions are investigated and the amount of residual DMF is accurately determined using infrared (IR) spectroscopy. Varying the drying conditions can lead to five orders of magnitude decrease in the ionic conductivity. As DMF content decreases, the SPE's stability again Li metal dramatically improves. The practical oxidative stability is also strongly affected by the residual DMF content, ranging from 2.5 V to 3.5 V, much lower than reported values. Finally, the role of the residual DMF solvent is elucidated. DMF content vitally influences ion solvation structure at different concentration regimes, which ultimately dictates the ion conduction mechanism and oxidative stability of PAN based SPEs. This thorough study lays the groundwork for future development of PAN based electrolytes.