Mechanistic Study of Controlled Zinc Electrodeposition Behaviors Facilitated by Nanoscale Electrolyte Additives at the Electrode Interface

Sara T. Hamilton, Tony G. Feric, Andrzej Gładysiak, Nelly M. Cantillo, Thomas A. Zawodzinski, Ah Hyung Alissa Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Nanoparticle organic hybrid materials (NOHMs) are liquid-like materials composed of an inorganic core to which a polymeric canopy is ionically tethered. NOHMs have unique properties including negligible vapor pressure, high oxidative thermal stability, and the ability to bind to reactive species of interest due to the tunability of their polymeric canopy. This makes them promising multifunctional materials for a wide range of energy and environmental technologies, including electrolyte additives for electrochemical energy storage (e.g., flow batteries) and the electrochemical conversion of CO2 to chemicals and fuels. Due to their unique transport behaviors in fluid systems, an understanding of the near-electrode surface behavior of NOHMs in electrolyte solutions and their effect on electrochemical reactions is still lacking. In this work, the complexation of zinc (Zn) by NOHMs with an ionically tethered polyetheramine canopy (HPE) (NOHM-I-HPE) was studied using attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared and Carbon-13 nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Additionally, various electrochemical techniques were employed to discern the role of NOHM-I-HPE during zinc electrodeposition, and the results were compared to those of the electrochemical system containing untethered HPE polymers. Our findings confirmed that NOHM-I-HPE and HPE reversibly complex zinc in the aqueous electrolyte. NOHM-I-HPE and HPE were found to block some of the electrode active sites, reducing the overall current density during electrodeposition, while facilitating the formation of smooth zinc deposits, as revealed by surface imaging and diffraction techniques. Observed variations in the current density responses and the degree of passivation created by the NOHM-I-HPE and HPE adsorbed on the electrode surface revealed that their different packing behaviors at the electrode−electrolyte interface influence the zinc deposition mechanism. The presence of the nanoparticle and ordering offered by the NOHMs as well as the structured conformation of the polymeric canopy allowed the formation of void spaces and free volumes for enhanced transport behaviors. These findings provided insights into how structured electrolyte additives such as NOHMs can allow for advancements in electrolyte design for controlled deposition of metal species from energy-dense electrolytes or for other electrochemical reactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22016-22029
Number of pages14
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 18 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Materials Science


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