Selectivity of Electrochemical Ion Insertion into Manganese Dioxide Polymorphs



The ion insertion redox chemistry of manganese dioxide has diverse applications in energy storage, catalysis, and chemical separations. Unique properties derive from the assembly of Mn-O octahedra into polymorphic structures that can host protons and non-protonic cations in interstitial sites. Despite many reports on individual ion-polymorph couples, much less is known about the selectivity of electrochemical ion insertion in MnO2. In this work, we use density functional theory to holistically compare the electrochemistry of AxMnO2 (where A = H+, Li+, Na+, K+, Mg2+, Ca2+, Zn2+ & Al3+) in aqueous and non-aqueous electrolytes. We develop an efficient computational scheme demonstrating that Hubbard-U correction has a greater impact on calculating accurate redox energetics than choice of exchange-correlation functional. Using PBE+U, we find that for non-protonic cations, ion selectivity depends on the oxygen coordination environments inside a polymorph. When H+ is present, however, the driving force to form hydroxyl bonds is usually stronger. In aqueous electrolytes, only three ion-polymorph pairs are thermodynamically stable within water’s voltage stability window (Na+ and K+ in 𝛼-MnO2, and Li+ in λ-MnO2), with all other ion insertion being metastable. We find Al3+ may insert into the 𝛿, R, and λ polymorphs across the full 2-electron redox of MnO2 at high voltage, however, electrolytes for multi-valent ions must be designed to impede formation of insoluble precipitates and facilitate cation desolvation. We also show that small ions co-insert with water in 𝛼-MnO2 to achieve greater coordination by oxygen, while solvation energies and kinetic effects dictate water co-insertion in 𝛿-MnO2. Taken together, these findings explain reports of mixed ion insertion mechanisms in aqueous electrolytes and highlight promising design strategies for safe, high energy density electrochemical energy storage, desalination batteries, and electrocatalysts.

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