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Toward the Formation of the Solid Electrolyte Interphase on Alkaline Metal Anodes: Ab Initio Simulations

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The transition from lithium-based energy storage to post lithium systems plays a crucial part in achieving an environmentally sustainable energy infrastructure. Prime candidates for the replacement of lithium are sodium and potassium batteries. Despite being critical to battery performance, the solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) formation process for Na and K batteries remains insufficiently understood, especially compared to the well-established lithium systems. Using ab initio molecular dynamics (AIMD) simulations based on density functional theory (DFT) calculations, we study the first steps of SEI formation upon the decomposition of typical solvent molecules on lithium, sodium and potassium metal anodes. We find that two dominant products form during the early SEI formation of cyclical carbonates on alkali metal anodes, carbon monoxide and alkali-carbonate. The carbonate-producing reaction is thermodynamically favorable for all tested metals, however, Na and K exhibit a much stronger selectivity than Li towards carbonate formation. Furthermore, we propose a previously unknown reaction mechanism for the CO polymerization on metallic lithium.

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