We report a simple, scalable approach to improve the interfacial characteristics and, thereby, the performance of commonly used polyolefin based battery separators. The nanoparticle-coated separators are synthesized by first plasma treating the membrane in oxygen to create surface anchoring groups followed by immersion into a dispersion of positively charged SiO 2 nanoparticles. The process leads to nanoparticles electrostatically adsorbed not only onto the exterior of the surface but also inside the pores of the membrane. The thickness and depth of the coatings can be fine-tuned by controlling the ζ-potential of the nanoparticles. The membranes show improved wetting to common battery electrolytes such as propylene carbonate. Cells based on the nanoparticle-coated membranes are operable even in a simple mixture of EC/PC. In contrast, an identical cell based on the pristine, untreated membrane fails to be charged even after addition of a surfactant to improve electrolyte wetting. When evaluated in a Li-ion cell using an EC/PC/DEC/VC electrolyte mixture, the nanoparticle-coated separator retains 92% of its charge capacity after 100 cycles compared to 80 and 77% for the plasma only treated and pristine membrane, respectively. © the Owner Societies 2011.