American Chemical Society
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Mechanistic Origin of Superionic Lithium Diffusion in Anion-Disordered Li6PS5X Argyrodites

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-03-03, 20:35 authored by Benjamin J. Morgan
The rational development of fast-ion-conducting solid electrolytes for all-solid-state lithium-ion batteries requires understanding the key structural and chemical principles that give some materials their exceptional ionic conductivities. For the lithium argyrodites Li6PS5X (X = Cl, Br, or I), the choice of the halide, X, strongly affects the ionic conductivity, giving room-temperature ionic conductivities for X = {Cl,Br} that are ×103 higher than for X = I. This variation has been attributed to differing degrees of S/X anion disorder. For X = {Cl,Br}, the S/X anions are substitutionally disordered, while for X = I, the anion substructure is fully ordered. To better understand the role of substitutional anion disorder in enabling fast lithium-ion transport, we have performed a first-principles molecular dynamics study of Li6PS5I and Li6PS5Cl with varying amounts of S/X anion-site disorder. By considering the S/X anions as a tetrahedrally close-packed substructure, we identify three partially occupied lithium sites that define a contiguous three-dimensional network of face-sharing tetrahedra. The active lithium-ion diffusion pathways within this network are found to depend on the S/X anion configuration. For anion-disordered systems, the active site–site pathways give a percolating three-dimensional diffusion network; whereas for anion-ordered systems, critical site–site pathways are inactive, giving a disconnected diffusion network with lithium motion restricted to local orbits around S positions. Analysis of the lithium substructure and dynamics in terms of the lithium coordination around each sulfur site highlights a mechanistic link between substitutional anion disorder and lithium disorder. In anion-ordered systems, the lithium ions are pseudo-ordered, with preferential 6-fold coordination of sulfur sites. Long-ranged lithium diffusion would disrupt this SLi6 pseudo-ordering, and is, therefore, disfavored. In anion-disordered systems, the pseudo-ordered 6-fold S–Li coordination is frustrated because of Li–Li Coulombic repulsion. Lithium positions become disordered, giving a range of S–Li coordination environments. Long-ranged lithium diffusion is now possible with no net change in S–Li coordination numbers. This gives rise to superionic lithium transport in the anion-disordered systems, effected by a concerted string-like diffusion mechanism.