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Modeling lithium-ion solid-state electrolytes with a pinball model

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Kahle Leonid, Marcolongo Aris, Marzari Nicola,
Project The search for low temperature super protonic conductivity
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Physical Review Materials
Volume (Issue) 2(6)
Page(s) 065405 - 065405
Title of proceedings Physical Review Materials
DOI 10.1103/physrevmaterials.2.065405


We introduce a simple and efficient model to describe the potential energy surface of lithium diffusing in a solidstate ionic conductor. First, we assume that the Li atoms are fully ionized and we neglect the weak dependence of the electronic valence charge density on the instantaneous position of the Li ions. Second, we freeze the atoms of the host lattice in their equilibrium positions; consequently, also the valence charge density is frozen. We thus obtain a computational setup (the “pinball model”) for which extremely inexpensive molecular dynamics simulations can be performed. To assess the accuracy of the model, we contrast it with full first-principles molecular dynamics simulations performed either with a free or frozen host lattice; in this latter case, the charge density still readjusts itself self-consistently to the actual positions of the diffusing Li ions. We show that the pinball model is able to reproduce accurately the static and dynamic properties of the diffusing Li ions—including forces, power spectra, and diffusion coefficients—when compared to the self-consistent frozen-host lattice simulations. The frozen-lattice approximation itself is often accurate enough, and certainly a good proxy in most materials. These observations unlock efficient ways to simulate the diffusion of lithium in the solid state, and provide additional physical insight into the respective roles of charge-density rearrangements or lattice vibrations in affecting lithium diffusion.