Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized transportable power but in order to realize the potential of transportable energy storage, the storage capacity of these batteries needs to be improved by perhaps an order of magnitude. The US Department of Energy Office of Basic Energy Sciences has identified advancing the fundamental science of electrochemical energy storage as a prime national goal and has funded a number of Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRC) to advance this goal. This project is funded through one of these EFRC projects termed “Center for Electrical Energy Storage–Tailored Interfaces” which focuses on interfacial phenomena. The EFRC is a consortium of investigators from UIUC, Northwestern University and Argonne National Laboratory. Lithium-ion batteries are inherently unstable because the batteries operate at potentials that can reduce the electrolyte, which is normally an organic liquid or solid such as an organic carbonate. However during the initial charge-discharge cycles in a batter, a solid-electrolyte interphase (SEI) forms on the anode which stifles the electrolyte decomposition and helps protect the electrode from dendrite growth than can short out and destroy the cell. An SEI is a finite thickness layer typically tens of nanometers thick. Our project seeks to understand how SEI layers form and evolve during successive charge-discharge cycles using SFG as an in situ probe of the interfaces associated with the SEI.

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