Mechanistic insight into the improved Li ion conductivity of solid polymer electrolytes†
Polymer based solid electrolytes (SEs) are envisaged as futuristic components of safer solid state energy devices. But the semi-crystalline nature and slow dynamics of the host polymer matrix are found to hamper the ion transport through the solid polymer network and hence solid state devices are still far beyond the scope of practical application. In this study, we unravel the synergistic roles of Li salt (LiClO4) and two different polymers – polyethylene oxide (PEO) and polydimethyl siloxane (PDMS), in the Li ion transport through their solid blend based electrolyte. A detailed study using dielectric spectroscopy and thermo-mechanical analysis is conducted to understand the tunability of the PEO chain dynamics with LiClO4 and the mechanism of hopping of Li ions by forming ion pairs with oxygen dipoles on the PEO backbone is established. Despite the lack of PDMS's capability to solvate ions and promote ion transport directly, its proper mixing within the PEO host matrix is demonstrated to enhance ion transport due to the influence of PDMS on the segmental dynamics of PEO. A detailed molecular dynamics study supported by experimental validation suggests that even inert polymers can affect the dynamics of the active host matrix and increase ion transport, leading to next generation high ionic conductivity solid matrices, and opens new avenues in designing polymer based transparent electrolytes.