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Reaction Network of Layer-to-Tunnel Transition of MnO2

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posted on 07.04.2016, 00:00 by Ye-Fei Li, Sheng-Cai Zhu, Zhi-Pan Liu
As a model system of 2-D oxide material, layered δ-MnO2 has important applications in Li ion battery systems. δ-MnO2 is also widely utilized as a precursor to synthesize other stable structure variants in the MnO2 family, such as α-, β-, R-, and γ-phases, which are 3-D interlinked structures with different tunnels. By utilizing the stochastic surface walking (SSW) pathway sampling method, we here for the first time resolve the atomistic mechanism and the kinetics of the layer-to-tunnel transition of MnO2, that is, from δ-MnO2 to the α-, β-, and R-phases. The SSW sampling determines the lowest-energy pathway from thousands of likely pathways that connects different phases. The reaction barriers of layer-to-tunnel phase transitions are found to be low, being 0.2–0.3 eV per formula unit, which suggests a complex competing reaction network toward different tunnel phases. All the transitions initiate via a common shearing and buckling movement of the MnO2 layer that leads to the breaking of the Mn–O framework and the formation of Mn3+ at the transition state. Important hints are thus gleaned from these lowest-energy pathways: (i) the large pore size product is unfavorable for the entropic reason; (ii) cations are effective dopants to control the kinetics and selectivity in layer-to-tunnel transitions, which in general lowers the phase transition barrier and facilitates the creation of larger tunnel size; (iii) the phase transition not only changes the electronic structure but also induces the macroscopic morphology changes due to the interfacial strain.