Investigating Chemical and Structural Heterogeneities of High-Voltage Spinel Cathode Material for Li-ion Batteries
Spence, Stephanie Leigh
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Li-ion battery technologies have transformed the consumer electronics and electric vehicles landscape over the last few decades. Single-crystal cathode materials with controllable physical properties including size, morphology, and crystal facets can aid researchers in developing relationships between physical characteristics, chemical properties, and electrochemical performance. High-voltage LiNi0.5Mn1.5O4 (LNMO) materials are desirable as cathodes due to their low cost, low toxicity, and high capacity and energy density making them promising to meet increasing consumer demands for battery materials. However, transition metal dissolution, interfacial instability, and capacity fading plague these materials when paired with graphite, limiting their commercial capability. Furthermore, variation in Ni/Mn ordering can lead to complex multiphase co-existence and changes in Mn oxidation state and electrochemical performance. These properties can be adjusted during synthesis using a facile and tunable molten salt synthesis method. This dissertation focuses on the investigation of chemical and structural heterogeneities of LNMO prepared under different synthetic conditions at different length scales. In Chapter 2, the influences of molten salt synthesis parameters on LNMO particle size, morphology, bulk uniformity, and performance are evaluated revealing the difficulty of reproducible cathode synthesis. We utilize the X-ray nanodiffraction technique throughout this work, which provides high-resolution structural information. We develop a method to measure and relate lattice strain to phase distribution at the tens of nanometers scale. In Chapter 3, mapping lattice distortions of LNMO particles with varying global Mn oxidation states reveals inherent structural defects and distortion heterogeneities. In Chapter 4, we examine lattice distortion evolution upon chemical delithiation, Mn dissolution behaviors, and evaluate the chemical delithiation method as a means to replicate electrochemical cycling conditions. We further investigate lattice distortion spatially via in situ nanodiffraction during battery cycling in Chapter 5, illustrating the capabilities of the measurement to provide practical understanding of cathode transformations. From intra-particle to electrode materials level, heterogeneities that arise in cathode materials can dictate performance properties and degradation mechanisms and are necessary for researchers to understand for the improvement of Li-ion battery systems. The development of the nanodiffraction measurements aids in our understanding of inherent and dynamic materials chemical and structural heterogeneities.
General Audience Abstract
The invention of rechargeable Li-ion batteries in the 1990s has undeniably revolutionized modern civilization. Cell phones, laptops, grid energy storage, and electric vehicles have become fundamental fixtures of the 21st century. As technologies improve and requirements for advanced renewable energy storage have increased, researchers have sought to design longer lasting, faster charging, and more lightweight batteries. Modifying and finding new positive electrode materials is one way to improve the capabilities of modern batteries as their properties are governed by fundamental chemistry. High-voltage LiNi0.5Mn1.5O4 (LNMO) is one such material that can allow for fast charging and high energy storage capacity, but its commercialization is hindered by complex physical and chemical properties, which can limit its lifetime in batteries. Large, particles with well-defined shapes are desirable to improve the stability of the materials; however, understanding their defects and structural heterogeneities is vital to continued optimization and requires advanced characterization techniques. In this dissertation, we characterize the physical phases and chemical properties of LNMO samples prepared under different conditions resulting in different particle shapes, sizes, and chemical distributions. An advanced X-ray nanodiffraction technique is used to measure phase distributions within individual particles while lab-based analytical techniques and electrochemical testing can determine bulk properties and battery performance of materials. Overall, the aim of this work is to develop techniques to measure structural and chemical heterogeneities of cathode materials at different length scales and to understand how they influence properties and performance in batteries. This work provides valuable insights into the inherent and dynamic properties of high-voltage electrode materials useful to advance our understanding of how these materials fail and to aid researchers in creating design principles to develop stable, high-performing future generations of rechargeable batteries.
- Doctoral Dissertations