Electrochemical Oxidation of Lithium Carbonate Generates Singlet Oxygen

Nika Mahne, Sara Renfrew, Bryan McCloskey, Stefan Freunberger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Solid alkali metal carbonates are universal passivation layer components of intercalation battery materials and common side products in metal-O2 batteries, and are believed to form and decompose reversibly in metal-O2/CO2 cells. In these cathodes, Li2CO3 decomposes to CO2 when exposed to potentials above 3.8 V vs. Li/Li+. However, O2 evolution, as would be expected according to the decomposition reaction 2 Li2CO3→4 Li++4 e+2 CO2+O2, is not detected. O atoms are thus unaccounted for, which was previously ascribed to unidentified parasitic reactions. Here, we show that highly reactive singlet oxygen (1O2) forms upon oxidizing Li2CO3 in an aprotic electrolyte and therefore does not evolve as O2. These results have substantial implications for the long-term cyclability of batteries: they underpin the importance of avoiding 1O2 in metal-O2 batteries, question the possibility of a reversible metal-O2/CO2 battery based on a carbonate discharge product, and help explain the interfacial reactivity of transition-metal cathodes with residual Li2CO3.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5529-5533
Number of pages5
JournalAngewandte Chemie / International Edition
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2018

Fields of Expertise

  • Advanced Materials Science

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    • 1 Invited talk
    • 1 Talk at workshop, seminar or course

    Oxygen Redox and Singlet Oxygen in Non-aqueous Battery Chemistries

    Stefan Freunberger (Speaker)
    5 Aug 2019

    Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talkScience to science

    Singlet Oxygen in Non-aqueous Battery Chemistries

    Stefan Freunberger (Speaker)
    10 Jun 201814 Jun 2018

    Activity: Talk or presentationTalk at workshop, seminar or courseScience to science


    Tajima Prize

    Stefan Freunberger (Recipient), 7 Sep 2018

    Prize: Prizes / Medals / Awards

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