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The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2017-04-19 13:05:27
  • Article ID: 673265

Developing Tools to Understand Lithium-Ion Battery Instabilities

Enabling study of interface thickness evolution on high-capacity battery electrodes.

  • Credit: Image courtesy of Advanced Energy Materials

    Atomic force microscopy (AFM) can measure atomic-scale height variations on the surface of a material. This investigation has developed AFM techniques to study silicon (Si) battery electrode materials during charge-discharge cycling (left). The design of the thin film electrode allows the measurement of growth of the surface interface layer (SEI) (purple region in the right image) during the cycling; this approach allows extraction of the interface thickness from the overall electrode volume change (tan).

The Science

Wouldn’t it be nice if lithium-ion batteries lasted as long as a car? Scientists have proposed silicon as a high-capacity negative electrode for lithium-ion batteries. Unfortunately, the formation and thickening of interface layers on top of silicon electrodes degrades cell performance. The result? You have to replace the battery. Measurements of the thickness of the interface material, known as the solid-electrolyte interphase or SEI, vary by two orders of magnitude. In this research, scientists combined real-time atomic force microscopy, which can measure surface layer thicknesses, with electrochemical cycling and a carefully designed sample geometry to unambiguously measure the SEI evolve. The sample design facilitates clear separation of SEI thickness evolution from the volume changes of the underlying silicon electrode. The measurements can be used to benchmark models of SEI reaction kinetics for different electrolytes.

The Impact

To lengthen the life of lithium-ion batteries, we need to know how to combat SEI formation. This measurement capability is a vital step in new studies of SEI properties. The approach offers real-time measurement of SEI thickness evolution with nanometer precision. It will allow for effective study of electrolyte compositions and additives and their effect on cell performance.   

Summary

This research has developed new techniques for in situ measurements of the growth of solid-electrolyte interphase (SEI) layers on silicon electrodes. These interface changes are accompanied by volume expansion induced by transport of lithium into the silicon. For these investigations, the team fabricated thin film amorphous silicon electrodes in a configuration that allows unambiguous separation of the total thickness change into the contributions due to the growth of the SEI and from the change in the silicon volume. They assembled the electrodes into a custom-designed electrochemical cell, which they integrated with an atomic force microscope. The electrodes are subjected to charge-discharge (lithiation-delithiation) cycles at a sequence of constant potential values and the thickness measurements are made at each potential after equilibrium is reached. The team carried out experiments with two electrolytes: 1.2M lithium hexafluoro-phosphate (LiPF6) in ethylene carbonate (EC) and 1.2M LiPF6 in propylene carbonate (PC) – to investigate the influence of electrolyte composition on SEI evolution. The team observed that SEI formation occurs predominantly during the first charging cycle and the maximum SEI thickness is approximately 17 nm and 10 nm, respectively, for EC and PC electrolytes. The measurements also yield valuable information on how the silicon electrode’s expansion ratio and charge capacity vary with equilibrium potential. Both relationships display hysteresis (for example, the measurements show a dependence on whether the electrode is being charged or discharged), which is explained in terms of the evolution of stress in silicon electrodes due to the changing volume. This sample design and measurement capability open the door for clear determination of which components and variations result in performance improvements in high-capacity lithium-ion batteries.

 

Funding

This work was fully supported by a Department of Energy Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Implementation award.

Publications

I. Yoon, D.P. Abraham, B.L. Lucht, A.F. Bower, and P.R. Guduru, “In situ measurement of solid electrolyte interphase evolution on silicon anodes using atomic force microscopy.” Advanced Energy Materials 6(12), 1600099 (2016). [DOI 10.1002/aenm.201600099]

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Ames Laboratory, UConn Discover Superconductor with Bounce

The U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory has discovered extreme "bounce," or super-elastic shape-memory properties in a material that could be applied for use as an actuator in the harshest of conditions, such as outer space, and might be the first in a whole new class of shape memory materials.

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Four Argonne Researchers Appointed Fellows of Scientific Societies

A select group of scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory has been honored as fellows of the American Physical Society and the Electrochemical Society. Physicists Kawtar Hafidi and Michael Carpenter have been appointed as American Physical Society fellows and Materials Scientist Khalil Amine and Chemist Chris Johnson have been elected as Electrochemical Society fellows.

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The U.S.-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory and the Virgo detector in Italy announced on Oct. 16 that all three of their detectors had picked up the ripples, or gravitational waves, from two neutron stars that collided 130 million years ago. Among other discoveries, the detection allowed scientists to use gravitational waves to directly calculate the rate at which the universe is expanding.

WVU Energy Conference to Address State's Economic Opportunities

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Exploring the Exotic World of Quarks and Gluons at the Dawn of the Exascale

As nuclear physicists delve ever deeper into the heart of matter, they require the tools to reveal the next layer of nature's secrets. Nowhere is that more true than in computational nuclear physics. A new research effort led by theorists at DOE's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) is now preparing for the next big leap forward in their studies thanks to funding under the 2017 SciDAC Awards for Computational Nuclear Physics.

Matthew Latimer Receives 2017 Lytle Award

A staff member at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Acceleratory Laboratory, Matthew Latimer is in charge of seven spectroscopy beamlines at SSRL. He was recently selected for the 2017 Farrel W. Lytle Award, established by the SSRL Users' Organization Executive Committee. The award promotes accomplishments in synchrotron science and supports collaboration among visiting scientists and staff who conduct research at SSRL.

Jefferson Lab Completes 12 GeV Upgrade

Nuclear physicists are now poised to embark on a new journey of discovery into the fundamental building blocks of the nucleus of the atom. The completion of the 12 GeV Upgrade Project of the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) at the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) heralds this new era to image nuclei at their deepest level.


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Hybrid Material Glows Like Jellyfish

Scientists combine biology, nanotechnology into composites that light up upon chemical stimulation.

Tiny Tornados at the Dawn of the Universe

Swirling soup of matter's fundamental building blocks spins ten billion trillion times faster than the most powerful tornado, setting new record for "vorticity."

On-Demand 3-D Printing of Tiny Magic Wands

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Heavy Quarks Probe the Early Universe

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Discovering the Genetic Timekeepers in Bioenergy Crops

A new class of plant-specific genes required for flowering control in temperate grasses is found.

New Technology Illuminates Microbial Dark Matter

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Tiny Green Algae Reveal Large Genomic Variation

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A Complex Little Alga that Lives by the Sea

The genetic material of Porphyra umbilicalis reveals the mechanisms by which it thrives in the stressful intertidal zone at the edge of the ocean.

Precise Radioactivity Measurements: A Controversy Settled

Simultaneous measurements of x-rays and gamma rays emitted in radioactive nuclear decays show that the vacancy left by an electron's departure, not the atomic structure, influences whether gamma rays are released.

OLYMPUS Experiment Sheds Light on Inner Workings of Protons

Seven-year study explains how packets of light are exchanged when protons meet electrons.


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