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Electrode-electrolyte interfacial properties play a vital role in the cycling performance of lithium-sulfur (Li-S) batteries. The issues at an electrode-electrolyte interface include electrochemical and chemical reactions occurring at the interface, formation mechanism of interfacial layers, compositional/structural characteristics of the interfacial layers, ionic transport across the interface, and thermodynamic and kinetic behaviors at the interface. Understanding the above critical issues is paramount for the development of strategies to enhance the overall performance of Li-S batteries. Liquid electrolytes commonly used in Li-S batteries bear resemblance to those employed in traditional lithium-ion batteries, which are generally composed of a lithium salt dissolved in a solvent matrix. However, due to a series of unique features associated with sulfur or polysulfides, ether-based solvents are generally employed in Li-S batteries rather than simply adopting the carbonate-type solvents that are generally used in the traditional Li(+)-ion batteries. In addition, the electrolytes of Li-S batteries usually comprise an important additive, LiNO3. The unique electrolyte components of Li-S batteries do not allow us to directly take the interfacial theories of the traditional Li(+)-ion batteries and apply them to Li-S batteries. On the other hand, during charging/discharging a Li-S battery, the dissolved polysulfide species migrate through the battery separator and react with the Li anode, which magnifies the complexity of the interfacial problems of Li-S batteries. However, current Li-S battery development paths have primarily been energized by advances in sulfur cathodes. Insight into the electrode-electrolyte interfacial behaviors has relatively been overshadowed. In this Account, we first examine the state-of-the-art contributions in understanding the solid-electrolyte interphase (SEI) formed on the Li-metal anode and sulfur cathode in conventional liquid-electrolyte Li-S batteries and how the resulting chemical and physical properties of the SEI affect the overall battery performance. A few strategies recently proposed for improving the stability of SEI are briefly summarized. Solid Li(+)-ion conductive electrolytes have been attempted for the development of Li-S batteries to eliminate the polysulfide shuttle issues. One approach is based on a concept of "all-solid-state Li-S battery," in which all the cell components are in the solid state. Another approach is based on a "hybrid-electrolyte Li-S battery" concept, in which the solid electrolyte plays roles both as a Li(+)-ion conductor for the electrochemical reaction and as a separator to prevent polysulfide shuttle. However, these endeavors with the solid electrolyte are not able to provide an overall satisfactory cell performance. In addition to the low ionic conductivity of solid-state electrolytes, a critical issue lies in the poor interfacial properties between the electrode and the solid electrolyte. This Account provides a survey of the relevant research progress in understanding and manipulating the interfaces of electrode and solid electrolytes in both the "all-solid-state Li-S batteries" and the "hybrid-electrolyte Li-S batteries". A recently proposed "semi-solid-state Li-S battery" concept is also briefly discussed. Finally, future research and development directions in all the above areas are suggested.
PMID: 29112389 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]