Tag Archives: Tween 20

Zinc Bromine Batteries: Increases in resistance when using TW20+PEG-200 containing solutions

As I showed in my last article on Zn-Br batteries using a Tween20+PEG-200 electrolyte, the batteries had no issues with dendrite production on the zinc anode but faced substantial deterioration of both the charging and discharging voltages as a function of time. I repeated the experiment using a Zinc anode to see if this phenomenon was consistent. The tests below were carried out for a battery that used a GFE-1 cathode pretreated with 10% TMPhABr and an electrolyte containing 1% PEG-200, 1% Tween 20 and 3M ZnBr2. The cell used a 0.2mm Zinc anode and graphite electrodes within the Swagelok cell.

Charge/discharge curves, charged to 15mAh at 15mA, discharged to 0.5V.
CE and EE as a function of the cycle. The cell was run for 8 cycles.

As you can see in the images within this post, although the CE and EE values of the battery remain fairly constant through the test, the mean charge potential increases and the mean discharge potential decreases as a function of the cycle number. This is showing that there is an overall increase in the internal resistance of the cell as a function of time, which appears to be linear and doesn’t seem to become smaller with time. Other cells that were charged to even larger numbers of cycles continued to show this deterioration, up to the point where the EE and CE of the cell started to decay and the cell started to fail.

This behavior points to some irreversible process happening within the device that is fundamentally affecting internal resistance. This has to be either a surface modification of the electrodes or an irreversible loss of conductivity in the solution. The first can happen due to bromide/perbromide interactions in the cathode, zinc oxide deposits in the anode caused by a local increase in pH due to hydrogen evolution or even the appearance of some insoluble polymers in the cathode due to electrochemical reactions of the additives.

Mean charge potential as a function of the cycle number
Mean discharge potential as a function of the cycle number

There is some evidence that cathode structure does deteriorate with time under the cell conditions. There is a significant amount of graphite that can be wiped off the Swagelok cell electrode after opening up the cells – while the graphite electrode was sanded and completely clean upon cell fabrication – which might point to the electrode itself or the GFE-1 cathode material degrading. I am currently running an experiment using a titanium electrode with a GFE-1 cathode to rule this out.

About the stability of the additives and sequestering agent, it might be worth it to carry out some cyclic-voltammetry (CV) experiments to investigate the stability of the organic additives being used to see if any of them can fundamentally degrade under these conditions. The TMPhABr could be especially susceptible, given its aromatic amine character. If the sequestering agent can deteriorate under these conditions, then we might be unable to use it as an effective agent and we might need to resort back to TBABr or TPABr. The Tween 20 might also be electrochemically vulnerable, so this additive also needs to be studied in this manner.

Zinc Bromine Batteries: PEG-200 plus Tween 20 to eliminate dendrites, first public results ever!

In the past I have discussed zinc dendrites as one of the most important issues to deal with when creating Zn-Br batteries. While the effect of dendrites can be attenuated by using tall cells with large distances between the electrodes, these setups create high electric resistance that greatly diminishes energy efficiency. A high energy efficiency Zn-Br battery will therefore have the ability to reduce or eliminate zinc dendrites, such that a large number of cycles can be achieved without shorting the battery.

I have studied the use of PEG-200 quite extensively within this blog and although PEG-200 does reduce the formation of zinc dendrites, it also increases the internal resistance of the battery, to the point where the voltaic losses become unacceptable. At useful energy density values (>30 Wh/L) and acceptable charging currents (>10 mA/cm2), the maximum PEG-200 concentration for a 3M ZnBr2 solution is therefore restricted to around 1-3%.

Battery configuration used in the experiments discussed in this post.

Looking at other potential low cost solutions to eliminate zinc dendrites, this article using PEG and Tween 20 in alkaline batteries drew my attention. Although the article used PEG-600, it is reasonable to expect a similar effect with PEG-200, given that this has also been shown to reduce Zinc dendrites in alkaline batteries in multiple publications. It is particularly interesting that they can achieve this with a 0.5% PEG-600 + 0.5% Tween 20 solution, as this would be of practical use within Zn-Br batteries.

To investigate this, I bought some USP grade Tween 20. It is a very safe , non-ionic surfactant commonly used commonly for cosmetics. I then prepared a solution using ~1% PEG-200 and ~1% Tween-20 with 3M ZnBr2. I then assembled a battery as shown above. Note that although I have been using a separator-less setup during the last couple of weeks, I decided to try a fiber-glass based separator setup first, since this setup in the past suffered from dendrites at the edges that I believe might have been caused by surface tension issues with the solution. This problem is likely to be solved by the use of the Tween 20.

First eleven cycles, lighter plots are earlier cycles. Final CE and EE values shown. Charging was done to 15mAh at 15mA, discharge was done to 0.5V.
Coulombic and Energy efficiency evolution as a function of the charge/discharge cycle number.

The solution was easy to prepare and the Tween 20 did not generate any solubility issues. The assembly of the cell was quite interesting, while a 3M ZnBr2 solution (with or without PEG-200) normally takes around a minute to fully wick into the fiberglass separator and the GFE-1 cathode, this time the wicking was almost instantaneous, probably thanks to the use of the Tween 20, that greatly reduced the surface tension of the mixture.

The cycling of the cell is going on without any issues. After around 3 cycles, the magnitude of changes in the shape of the curves and capacity started to become smaller and smaller, with the battery currently settling at a CE ~ 92% and an EE ~ 68%. The total amount of charge extracted is around 13.8 mAh with an average potential of 1.46V, putting the energy density of the battery at this current density at around 30 Wh/L. I am so far amazed at the stability of this battery configuration with few aberrations showing in the charge/discharge curves and no signs of dendrites (so far). The above are the first ever published results – as far as I know – for a Zn-Br battery containing both PEG-200 and Tween 20.

An important early sign of dendrites is a decrease in the charging potential with time – as the zinc dendrites effectively enhance the surface area of the anode before shorting the battery – an effect that I haven’t observed after 11 cycles. Although still too soon, the above results are certainly encouraging, hopefully the synergistic effect between PEG and Tween 20 applies to the Zn-Br system as well.