Heterogeneous Doping via Nanoscale Coating Impacts Mechanics of Li Intrusion in Brittle Solid Electrolytes

19 June 2024, Version 1


Lithium metal electroplating and short-circuiting limit fast charging in solid-state batteries, yet the mechanisms and methods to regulate lithium intrusions are not well-understood. In this work, we discover that nanoscale heterogeneous Ag+ doping dramatically affects lithium intrusion in Li6.6La3Zr1.6Ta0.4O12 (LLZO), a brittle solid electrolyte. We generate nanoscale Ag+ doping by thermally annealing a 3-nm-thick metallic film. The metallic Ag undergoes Ag-Li ion exchange, completely disappears, and diffuses into LLZO bulk and grain boundaries to a depth of 20-50 nm. Density functional theory calculations predict this Ag-Li ion exchange exhibits negligible impact on electronic properties. Mechanically, nanoindentation experiments (n = 69) show a fivefold increase in the force required to fracture Ag+ surface-doped LLZO (Ag+-LLZO), providing direct evidence that surface modification due to Ag+ incorporation prevents crack opening. Conducting 121 plating experiments via operando microprobe scanning electron microscopy, we further confirm that the Ag+-LLZO surface exhibits improved lithium plating even under a large local indentation stress of 3 GPa. Surprisingly, microprobe plating reveals that Ag+ increases the diameter of plated Li at failure by more than 4 times, demonstrating its role in enhancing the defect tolerance of LLZO. Our study reveals a chemo-mechanical mechanism via surface heterogeneous doping, complementing the present bulk design rules to prevent mechanical failures in solid-state batteries.


Solid electrolyte
Solid-state batteries
Ag coating
Li dendrite/intrusion


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