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Resolving Nanoscopic and Mesoscopic Heterogeneity of Fluorinated Species in Battery Solid-Electrolyte Interphases by Cryogenic Electron Microscopy

ACS Energy Letters

The stability of lithium batteries is tied to the physicochemical properties of the solid-electrolyte interphase (SEI). Owing to the difficulty in characterizing this sensitive interphase, the nanoscale distribution of SEI components is poorly understood. Here, we use cryogenic scanning transmission electron microscopy (cryo-STEM) to map the spatial distribution of SEI components across the metallic Li anode. We reveal that LiF, an SEI component widely believed to play an important role in battery passivation, is absent within the compact SEI film (∼15 nm); instead, LiF particles (100–400 nm) precipitate across the electrode surface. We term this larger length scale as the indirect SEI regime. On the basis of these observations, we conclude that LiF cannot be a dominant contribution to anode passivation nor does it influence Li+ transport across the compact SEI film. We refine the traditional SEI structure derived from ensemble-averaged characterizations and nuance the role of SEI components on battery performance.