Jafta, C.J.; Hilger, A.; Sun, X.-G.; Geng, L.; Li, M.; Risse, S.; Belharouak, I.; Manke, I.: A Multidimensional Operando Study Showing the Importance of the Electrode Macrostructure in Lithium Sulfur Batteries. ACS Applied Energy Materials 3 (2020), p. 6965-6976

Lithium sulfur batteries are one of the most promising next-generation energy storage technologies, because of their impressive theoretical energy density, low materials cost, and relative safety. However, incomplete understanding of their underlying operation mechanisms has hindered their further development and commercialization. To gain a better understanding of the operation mechanisms in the lithium sulfur battery, three macroscopically different (woven and nonwoven) and microscopically similar (made from the same carbon fibers) freestanding carbon felts are used as the conductive matrices to show how the macrostructure influences the redox reactions and the electrochemical performance. An operando radiography and simultaneous in situ electrochemical impedance spectroscopy study are performed to highlight the differences of the carbon hosts and how they compare electrochemically in a lithium sulfur battery. The electrochemical results show that the carbon host with a more open structure results in increased capacity as well as a higher diffusion coefficient. The operando radiography shows that the open structures are more conducive to efficient redox reactivity in forming solid sulfur species, mostly in the form of elongated needlelike structures identified as β-S8, near the end of charge, which is corroborated by the impedance data. The data also reveal a “breathing” mechanism, where the polysulfides are pushed to the edges during discharge and pulled back during charge. It is also revealed that the “breathing” process is a limiting factor in the high rate performance. Overall, this study shows that there is a close relationship between the macrostructure of the carbon matrix and the electrochemical performance of the sulfur cathode.