Mapping the sodium intercalation mechanism, electrochemical properties and structural evolution in non-stoichiometric alluaudite Na2+2δFe2−δ(SO4)3 cathode materials†
In the scientific advancement of future cathode materials, alluaudite sodium iron sulfate Na2+2δFe2−δ(SO4)3 (NxFyS) has emerged as one of the most promising candidates for sustainable sodium-ion batteries due to its high Fe2+/3+ redox potential (3.8 V vs. Na/Na+), low cost, and high rate capability. Usually, this material occurs in a non-stoichiometric form with partial Na+ substitutions on Fe sites, where δ is close to 0.25 (N2.5F1.75S) depending on the synthesis conditions. While many contemporary works have primarily been directed to study this non-stoichiometric compound, our previous theoretical prediction unveiled the possibility to synthesize stoichiometric alluaudite (N2F2S), which is expected to deliver higher specific capacity (∼120 mA h g−1) as compared to the non-stoichiometric derivatives. This provokes curiosity toward the non-stoichiometric effect on the electrochemical activities and sodium intercalation mechanism in alluaudite materials. In this work, we therefore perform rigorous first-principles calculations to study the structural evolution, electrochemical behavior, and voltage profile of NxFyS with y = 2, 1.75, and 1.5. We reveal the likelihood of two phase transitions after half desodiation process, whereas the probability is reduced with a higher degree of non-stoichiometry, suggesting improvement in the structural reversibility for N2.5F1.75S and N3F1.5S. The prediction of the voltage profiles shows the benefit of non-stoichiometry in enhancing the specific capacity and identifies the structural rearrangement of Fe2O10 dimers as the hidden reason behind the irreversible sharp peak experimentally observed in differential galvanostatic profiles.