Transport Anomalies Emerging from Strong Correlation in Ionic Liquid Electrolytes

Recent works on ionic liquid electrolyte systems motivate the present study of transport regimes where strong species interactions result in significant correlations and deviations from ideal solution behaviour. In order to obtain a complete description of transport in these systems we use rigorous concentrated solution theory coupled with molecular dynamics simulations, beyond the commonly used uncorrelated Nernst-Einstein equation. As a case study, we investigate the NaFSI - Pyr13\FSI room temperature ionic liquid electrolyte. When fully accounting for intra- and inter-species correlation, an anomalously low and even negative transference number emerges for NaFSI molar fractions lower than 0.2, emphasising that strong ion-ion coupling in the electrolyte can significantly impact the rate performance of the cell. With increasing concentration the transference number monotonically increases, approaching unity, while the total conductivity decreases as the system transitions to a state resembling a single-ion solid-state electrolyte. The degree of spatial ionic association is explored further by employing a variant of unsupervised single-linkage clustering algorithm. Using this combination of numerical techniques we examine the microscopic mechanisms responsible for the trade-off between key electrolyte transport properties, previously overlooked in both computational and experimental studies.