Duan Research Group

Hetero-integrated Nanostructures and Nanodevices


Establishing reaction networks in the 16-electron sulfur reduction reaction

Rongli Liu, Ziyang Wei, Lele Peng, Leyuan Zhang, Arava Zohar, Rachel Schoeppner, Peiqi Wang, Chengzhang Wan, Dan Zhu, Haotian Liu, Zhaozong Wang, Sarah H. Tolbert, Bruce Dunn, Yu Huang, Philippe Sautet  & Xiangfeng Duan

Nature 626, 98-104 (2024)

The sulfur reduction reaction (SRR) plays a central role in high-capacity lithium sulfur (Li-S) batteries. The SRR involves an intricate, 16-electron conversion process featuring multiple lithium polysulfide intermediates and reaction branches. Establishing the complex reaction network is essential for rational tailoring of the SRR for improved Li-S batteries, but represents a daunting challenge. Herein we systematically investigate the electrocatalytic SRR to decipher its network using the nitrogen, sulfur, dual-doped holey graphene framework as a model electrode to understand the role of electrocatalysts in acceleration of conversion kinetics. Combining cyclic voltammetry, in situ Raman spectroscopy and density functional theory calculations, we identify and directly profile the key intermediates (S8 , Li2 S8 , Li2 S6 , Li2 S4 and Li2 S) at varying potentials and elucidate their conversion pathways. Li2 S4 and Li2 S6 were predominantly observed, in which Li2 S4 represents the key electrochemical intermediate dictating the overall SRR kinetics. Li2 S6 , generated (consumed) through a comproportionation (disproportionation) reaction, does not directly participate in electrochemical reactions but significantly contributes to the polysulfide shuttling process. We found that the nitrogen, sulfur dual-doped holey graphene framework catalyst could help accelerate polysulfide conversion kinetics, leading to faster depletion of soluble lithium polysulfides at higher potential and hence mitigating the polysulfide shuttling effect and boosting output potential. These results highlight the electrocatalytic approach as a promising strategy for tackling the fundamental challenges regarding Li-S batteries.
UCLA, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
607 Charles E. Young Drive East, Box 951569
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1569
E-mail: xduan@chem.ucla.edu