Defect and structural evolution under high-energy ion irradiation informs battery materials design for extreme environments

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Nature Research


Understanding defect evolution and structural transformations constitutes a prominent research frontier for ultimately controlling the electrochemical properties of advanced battery materials. Herein, for the first time, we utilize in situ high-energy Kr ion irradiation with transmission electron microscopy to monitor how defects and microstructures evolve in Na- and Li-layered cathodes with 3d transition metals. Our experimental and theoretical analyses reveal that Li-layered cathodes are more resistant to radiation-induced structural transformations, such as amorphization than Na-layered cathodes. The underlying mechanism is the facile formation of Li-transition metal antisite defects in Li-layered cathodes. The quantitative mathematical analysis of the dynamic bright-field imaging shows that defect clusters preferentially align along the Na/Li ion diffusion channels (a-b planes), which is likely governed by the formation of dislocation loops. Our study provides critical insights into designing battery materials for extreme irradiation environments and understanding fundamental defect dynamics in layered oxides.