The propensity of metal anodes of contemporary interest (e.g., Li, Al, Na, and Zn) to form non-planar, dendritic morphologies during battery charging is a fundamental barrier to achievement of full reversibility. We experimentally investigate the origins of dendritic electrodeposition of Zn, Cu, and Li in a three-electrode electrochemical cell bounded at one end by a rotating disc electrode. We find that the classical picture of ion depletion-induced growth of dendrites is valid in dilute electrolytes but is essentially irrelevant in the concentrated (≥1 M) electrolytes typically used in rechargeable batteries. Using Zn as an example, we find that ion depletion at the mass transport limit may be overcome by spontaneous reorientation of Zn crystallites from orientations parallel to the electrode surface to dominantly homeotropic orientations, which appear to facilitate contact with cations outside the depletion layer. This chemotaxis-like process causes obvious texturing and increases the porosity of metal electrodeposits.
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