Conductive framework of inverse opal structure for sulfur cathode in lithium-sulfur batteries
As a promising cathode inheritor for lithium-ion batteries, the sulfur cathode exhibits very high theoretical volumetric capacity and energy density. In its practical applications, one has to solve the insulating properties of sulfur and the shuttle effect that deteriorates cycling stability. The state-of-the-art approaches are to confine sulfur in a conductive matrix. In this work, we utilize monodisperse polystyrene nanoparticles as sacrificial templates to build polypyrrole (PPy) framework of an inverse opal structure to accommodate (encapsulate) sulfur through a combined in situ polymerization and melting infiltration approach. In the design, the interconnected conductive PPy provides open channels for sulfur infiltration, improves electrical and ionic conductivity of the embedded sulfur, and reduces polysulfide dissolution in the electrolyte through physical and chemical adsorption. The flexibility of PPy and partial filling of the inverse opal structure endure possible expansion and deformation during long-term cycling. It is found that the long cycling stability of the cells using the prepared material as the cathode can be substantially improved. The result demonstrates the possibility of constructing a pure conductive polymer framework to accommodate insulate sulfur in ion battery applications.