Physical Chemistry

Towards the Understanding of Water-in-Salt Electrolytes: Individual Ion Activities and Liquid Junction Potentials in Highly Concentrated Aqueous Solutions

Alexis Grimaud Collège de France


Highly concentrated electrolytes were recently proposed to improve the performances of aqueous electrochemical systems by delaying the water splitting and increasing the operating voltage for battery applications. While advances were made regarding their implementation in practical devices, debate exists regarding the physical origin for the delayed water reduction occurring at the electrode/electrolyte interface. Evidently, one difficulty resides in our lack of knowledge regarding ions activity arising from this novel class of electrolyte, it being necessary to estimate the Nernst potential of associated redox reactions such as Li+ intercalation or the hydrogen evolution reaction. In this work, we first measured the potential shift of electrodes selective to either Li+, H+ or Zn2+ ions from diluted to highly concentrated regimes in LiCl or LiTFSI solutions. Observing similar shifts for these different cations and environments, we establish that shifts in redox potentials from diluted to highly concentrated regime originates in large from an increase junction potential, it being dependent on the ions activity coefficients that increase with concentration. While our study shows that single ion activity coefficients, unlike mean ion activity coefficients, cannot be captured by any electrochemical means, we demonstrate that protons concentration increases by approximatively two orders of magnitude from 1 to 15-20 solutions. Combined with the increased activity coefficients, this increases the activity of protons and thus the pH of highly concentrated solutions which appears acidic.

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Submitted version


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Supplementary material

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Activities and LJP WiSE SI Final