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The Coupling between Stability and Ion Pair Formation in Magnesium Electrolytes from First-Principles Quantum Mechanics and Classical Molecular Dynamics

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journal contribution
posted on 11.03.2015 by Nav Nidhi Rajput, Xiaohui Qu, Niya Sa, Anthony K. Burrell, Kristin A. Persson
In this work we uncover a novel effect between concentration dependent ion pair formation and anion stability at reducing potentials, e.g., at the metal anode. Through comprehensive calculations using both first-principles as well as well-benchmarked classical molecular dynamics over a matrix of electrolytes, covering solvents and salt anions with a broad range in chemistry, we elucidate systematic correlations between molecular level interactions and composite electrolyte properties, such as electrochemical stability, solvation structure, and dynamics. We find that Mg electrolytes are highly prone to ion pair formation, even at modest concentrations, for a wide range of solvents with different dielectric constants, which have implications for dynamics as well as charge transfer. Specifically, we observe that, at Mg metal potentials, the ion pair undergoes partial reduction at the Mg cation center (Mg2+ → Mg+), which competes with the charge transfer mechanism and can activate the anion to render it susceptible to decomposition. Specifically, TFSI exhibits a significant bond weakening while paired with the transient, partially reduced Mg+. In contrast, BH4 and BF4 are shown to be chemically stable in a reduced ion pair configuration. Furthermore, we observe that higher order glymes as well as DMSO improve the solubility of Mg salts, but only the longer glyme chains reduce the dynamics of the ions in solution. This information provides critical design metrics for future electrolytes as it elucidates a close connection between bulk solvation and cathodic stability as well as the dynamics of the salt.