Crowded electrolytes containing redoxmers in different states of charge: Solution structure, properties, and fundamental limits on energy density

Ilya A. Shkrob, Lily A. Robertson, Zhou Yu, Rajeev S. Assary, Lei Cheng, Lu Zhang, Erik Sarnello, Xinyi Liu, Tao Li, Aman Preet Kaur, T. Malsha Suduwella, Susan A. Odom, Yilin Wang, Randy H. Ewoldt, Hossam M. Farag, Y. Z

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Nonaqueous redox flow batteries use liquid electrolytes containing redox-active organic molecules (redoxmers) as their energy storage medium. To maximize energy density, the redoxmer concentration needs to be maximized while maintaining low viscosity and high ionic conductivity. During charge, a redoxmer molecule pairs with an ion in the electrolyte while another ion migrates across the membrane to maintain electric neutrality. In a crowded electrolyte, this reconstitution changes physical and chemical properties of the solution. To explore these behaviors, a phenothiazine redoxmer fully miscible with acetonitrile was used, and electrochemical charge was mimicked by chemical oxidation. The solutions were examined using small-angle X-ray scattering, nuclear magnetic resonance, and conductometry and modeled using classical molecular dynamics. Our study indicates that physical and structural properties of redoxmer solutions in both states of charge make it exceedingly difficult to increase the redoxmer concentrations over 2 M at any temperature without compromising dynamic properties of such solutions. The cause for this limitation is proximity to a gel-like regime in which fluidity, diffusivity, and ionic conductivity exponentially decrease with increasing concentration. This tendency is compounded by non-Arrhenius behavior of the electrolyte: a small increase in the concentration outruns gains in fluidity and conductivity at a higher temperature. Thus the properties of crowded electrolytes generally make it impossible to operate when gel-like behavior sets in. Pushing the redoxmer concentration to 2.5–3 M might be possible for small redoxmer molecules, but it would require the use of ionic liquid electrolytes at 340–360 K.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116533
JournalJournal of Molecular Liquids
StatePublished - Jul 15 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.


  • Diffusivity
  • Electrolytes
  • Ionic conductivity
  • Molecular dynamics
  • Redox-active molecules
  • Small-angle X-ray scattering
  • Solutions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Spectroscopy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Materials Chemistry


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