Spinel compounds as multivalent battery cathodes: a systematic evaluation based on ab initio calculations†
Batteries that shuttle multivalent ions such as Mg2+ and Ca2+ ions are promising candidates for achieving higher energy density than available with current Li-ion technology. Finding electrode materials that reversibly store and release these multivalent cations is considered a major challenge for enabling such multivalent battery technology. In this paper, we use recent advances in high-throughput first-principles calculations to systematically evaluate the performance of compounds with the spinel structure as multivalent intercalation cathode materials, spanning a matrix of five different intercalating ions and seven transition metal redox active cations. We estimate the insertion voltage, capacity, thermodynamic stability of charged and discharged states, as well as the intercalating ion mobility and use these properties to evaluate promising directions. Our calculations indicate that the Mn2O4 spinel phase based on Mg and Ca are feasible cathode materials. In general, we find that multivalent cathodes exhibit lower voltages compared to Li cathodes; the voltages of Ca spinels are ∼0.2 V higher than those of Mg compounds (versus their corresponding metals), and the voltages of Mg compounds are ∼1.4 V higher than Zn compounds; consequently, Ca and Mg spinels exhibit the highest energy densities amongst all the multivalent cation species. The activation barrier for the Al3+ ion migration in the Mn2O4 spinel is very high (∼1400 meV for Al3+ in the dilute limit); thus, the use of an Al based Mn spinel intercalation cathode is unlikely. Amongst the choice of transition metals, Mn-based spinel structures rank highest when balancing all the considered properties.