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Direct observation of ion dynamics in supercapacitor electrodes using in situ diffusion NMR spectroscopy

Abstract

Ionic transport inside porous carbon electrodes underpins the storage of energy in supercapacitors and the rate at which they can charge and discharge, yet few studies have elucidated the materials properties that influence ion dynamics. Here we use in situ pulsed field gradient NMR spectroscopy to measure ionic diffusion in supercapacitors directly. We find that confinement in the nanoporous electrode structures decreases the effective self-diffusion coefficients of ions by over two orders of magnitude compared with neat electrolyte, and in-pore diffusion is modulated by changes in ion populations at the electrode/electrolyte interface during charging. Electrolyte concentration and carbon pore size distributions also affect in-pore diffusion and the movement of ions in and out of the nanopores. In light of our findings we propose that controlling the charging mechanism may allow the tuning of the energy and power performances of supercapacitors for a range of different applications.

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Figure 1: Introducing pulsed field gradient NMR of supercapacitors.
Figure 2: Diffusion measurements on supercapacitors at 0 V.
Figure 3: In situ measurements of ionic diffusion in supercapacitors.

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Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge the EPSRC (through the Supergen consortium for A.C.F., J.M.G. and J.C.-G.), the School of the Physical Sciences of the University of Cambridge (via an Oppenheimer Research Fellowship, C.M.), the EU Graphene Flagship (A.-R.O.R.), and the EU ERC (through an Advanced Fellowship to C.P.G.) for financial support. This work was also supported as part of the NorthEast Center for Chemical Energy Storage (NECCES), an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences, under Award no. DE-SC0012583 (N.M.T.). We thank P. Bayley for assistance with PFG NMR experiments and the engineering of in situ apparatus, and A. Sederman for assistance with initial PFG NMR experiments.

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Contributions

A.C.F. prepared supercapacitor cells, performed PFG NMR experiments and analysed the data. J.M.G. recorded and analysed NMR experiments to determine total in-pore ion populations. N.M.T. performed initial PFG NMR experiments. A.-R.O.R. recorded scanning electron micrographs and gas sorption isotherms. All authors contributed to design of the research, the discussion of the data and the writing of the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Clare P. Grey.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Supplementary Figures 1–9, Supplementary Table 1, Supplementary Discussion, Supplementary References (PDF 1460 kb)

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Forse, A., Griffin, J., Merlet, C. et al. Direct observation of ion dynamics in supercapacitor electrodes using in situ diffusion NMR spectroscopy. Nat Energy 2, 16216 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nenergy.2016.216

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