ConspectusThe need/desire to lower the consumption of fossil fuels and its environmental consequences has reached unprecedented levels in recent years. A global effort has been undertaken to develop advanced renewable energy generation and especially energy storage technologies, as they would enable a dramatic increase in the effective and efficient use of renewable (and often intermittent) energy sources. The development of electrical energy storage (EES) technologies with high energy and power densities, long life, low cost, and safe use represents a challenge from both the fundamental science and technological application points of view. While the advent and broad deployment of lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) has dramatically changed the EES landscape, their performance metrics need to be greatly enhanced to keep pace with the ever-increasing demands imposed by modern consumer electronics and especially the emerging automotive markets.Current battery technologies are mostly based on the use of a transition metal oxide cathode (e.g., LiCoO2, LiFePO4, or LiNiMnCoO2) and a graphite anode, both of which depend on intercalation/insertion of lithium ions for operation. While the cathode material currently limits the battery capacity and overall energy density, there is a great deal of interest in the development of high-capacity cathode materials as well as anode materials.Conversion reaction materials have been identified/proposed as potentially high-energy-density alternatives to intercalation-based materials. However, conversion reaction materials react during lithiation to form entirely new products, often with dramatically changed structure and chemistry, by reaction mechanisms that are still not completely understood. This makes it difficult to clearly distinguish the limitations imposed by the mechanism and practical losses from initial particle morphology, synthetic approaches, and electrode preparations.Transition metal compounds such as transition metal oxides, sulfides, fluorides, phosphides, and nitrides can undergo conversion reactions yielding materials with high theoretical capacity (generally from 500 to 1500 mA h g-1). In particular, a number of transition metal oxides and sulfides have shown excellent electrochemical properties as high-capacity anode materials. In addition, some transition metal fluorides have shown great potential as cathode materials for Li rechargeable batteries.In this Account we present mechanistic studies, with emphasis on the use of operando methods, of selected examples of conversion-type materials as both potentially high-energy-density anodes and cathodes in EES applications. We also include examples of the conceptually similar conversion-type reactions involving chalcogens and halogens, with emphasis on the Li-S system. In this case we focus on the problems arising from the low electrical conductivities of elemental sulfur and Li2S and the "redox shuttle" phenomena of polysulfides.In addition to mechanistic insights from the use of operando methods, we also cover several key strategies in electrode materials design such as controlling the size, morphology, composition, and architecture.
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