Saving energy in buildings is of great importance because about 30 to 40 % of the energy in the world is used in buildings. An electrochromic window (ECW), which makes it possible to regulate the inflow of visible light and solar energy into buildings, is a promising technology providing a reduction in energy consumption in buildings along with indoor comfort. A polymer electrolyte is positioned at the center of multi-layer structure of an ECW and plays a significant role in the working of the ECW.
In this study, polyethyleneimine: lithium (bis(trifluoromethane)sulfonimide (PEI:LiTFSI)-based polymer electrolytes were characterized by using dielectric/impedance spectroscopy, differential scanning calorimetry, viscosity recording, optical spectroscopy, and electrochromic measurements.
In the first part of the study, PEI:LiTFSI electrolytes were characterized at various salt concentrations and temperatures. Temperature dependence of viscosity and ionic conductivity of the electrolytes followed Arrhenius behavior. The viscosity was modeled by the Bingham plastic equation. Molar conductivity, glass transition temperature, viscosity, Walden product, and iso-viscosity conductivity analysis showed effects of segmental flexibility, ion pairs, and mobility on the conductivity. A connection between ionic conductivity and ion-pair relaxation was seen by means of (i) the Barton-Nakajima-Namikawa relation, (ii) activation energies of the bulk relaxation, and ionic conduction and (iii) comparing two equivalent circuit models, containing different types of Havriliak-Negami elements, for the bulk response.
In the second part, nanocomposite PEI:LiTFSI electrolytes with SiO2, In2O3, and In2O3:Sn (ITO) were examined. Adding SiO2 to the PEI:LiTFSI enhanced the ionic conductivity by an order of magnitude without any degradation of the optical properties. The effect of segmental flexibility and free ion concentration on the conduction in the presence of SiO2 is discussed. The PEI:LiTFSI:ITO electrolytes had high haze-free luminous transmittance and strong near-infrared absorption without diminished ionic conductivity. Ionic conductivity and optical clarity did not deteriorate for the PEI:LiTFSI:In2O3 and the PEI:LiTFSI:SiO2:ITO electrolytes.
Finally, propylene carbonate (PC) and ethylene carbonate (EC) were added to PEI:LiTFSI in order to perform electrochromic measurements. ITO and SiO2 were added to the PEI:LiTFSI:PC:EC and to a proprietary electrolyte. The nanocomposite electrolytes were tested for ECWs with the configuration of the ECWs being plastic/ITO/WO3/polymer electrolyte/NiO (or IrO2)/ITO/plastic. It was seen that adding nanoparticles to polymer electrolytes can improve the coloring/bleaching dynamics of the ECWs.
From this study, we show that nanocomposite polymer electrolytes can add new functionalities as well as enhancement in ECW applications.