Stress-driven lithium dendrite growth mechanism and dendrite mitigation by electroplating on soft substrates

  • Nature Energyvolume 3pages227235 (2018)
  • doi:10.1038/s41560-018-0104-5
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Problems related to dendrite growth on lithium-metal anodes such as capacity loss and short circuit present major barriers to next-generation high-energy-density batteries. The development of successful lithium dendrite mitigation strategies is impeded by an incomplete understanding of the Li dendrite growth mechanisms, and in particular, Li-plating-induced internal stress in Li metal and its effect on Li growth morphology are not well addressed. Here, we reveal the enabling role of plating residual stress in dendrite formation through depositing Li on soft substrates and a stress-driven dendrite growth model. We show that dendrite growth is mitigated on such soft substrates through surface-wrinkling-induced stress relaxation in the deposited Li film. We demonstrate that this dendrite mitigation mechanism can be utilized synergistically with other existing approaches in the form of three-dimensional soft scaffolds for Li plating, which achieves higher coulombic efficiency and better capacity retention than that for conventional copper substrates.

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We gratefully acknowledge the use of facilities within the LeRoy Eyring Center for Solid State Science at Arizona State University. L.H. F.W. and M.T. acknowledge support from the DOE BES Physical Behaviour of Materials Program under grant no. DE-SC0014435. The research also uses HPC resources supported in part by the Big-Data Private-Cloud Research Cyberinfrastructure MRI-award funded by the NSF under grant CNS-1338099 by Rice University. We appreciate the discussion with C. Chan at Arizona State University on the full-cell characterization.

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Author notes

  1. These authors contributed equally: X. Wang, W. Zeng.


  1. School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA

    • Xu Wang
    • , Wei Zeng
    • , Wenwen Xu
    • , Haokai Yang
    •  & Hanqing Jiang
  2. Collaborative Innovation Center for Optoelectronic Science & Technology, Key Laboratory of Optoelectronic Devices and Systems of Ministry of Education and Guangdong Province, College of Optoelectronic Engineering, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen, China

    • Wei Zeng
  3. State Key Laboratory of Advanced Design and Manufacturing for Vehicle Body, College of Mechanical and Vehicle Engineering, Hunan University, Changsha, Hunan, China

    • Wei Zeng
    •  & Huigao Duan
  4. Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering, Rice University, Houston, TX, USA

    • Liang Hong
    • , Fan Wang
    •  & Ming Tang


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X.W., W.Z. and H.J. designed the experiments. X.W., W.Z., W.X., H.Y., F.W., H.D. and H.J. carried out experiments and analysis. L.H. and M.T. developed the theory. X.W., M.T. and H.J. wrote the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Huigao Duan or Ming Tang or Hanqing Jiang.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Figures 1–16, Supplementary Discussion, Supplementary References.


  1. Supplementary Video 1

    Optical observation of 200 nm-thick Cu/PDMS soft substrate during Li plating

  2. Supplementary Video 2

    Optical observation of 400 nm-thick Cu/PDMS soft substrate during Li plating

  3. Supplementary Video 3

    Optical observation of 800 nm-thick Cu/PDMS soft substrate during Li plating