Mapping battery materials with atomic precisionMarch 07, 2018
Lithium-ion batteries are widely used in home electronics and are now being used to power electric vehicles and store energy for the power grid. But their limited number of recharge cycles and tendency to degrade in capacity over their lifetime have spurred a great deal of research into improving the technology.
An international team led by researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) used advanced techniques in electron microscopy to show how the ratio of materials that make up a lithium-ion battery electrode affects its structure at the atomic level, and how the surface is very different from the rest of the material. The work was published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.
Knowing how the internal and surface structure of a battery material changes over a wide range of chemical compositions will aid future studies on cathode transformations and could also lead to the development of new battery materials.
"This finding could change the way we look at phase transformations within the cathode and the resulting loss of capacity in this class of material," said Alpesh Khushalchand Shukla, a scientist at Berkeley Lab's Molecular Foundry, and lead author of the study. "Our work shows that it is extremely important to completely characterize a new material in its pristine state, as well as after cycling, in order to avoid misinterpretations."
Previous work by researchers at the Molecular Foundry, a research center specializing in nanoscale science, revealed the structure of cathode materials containing "excess" lithium, resolving a longstanding debate.
Using a suite of electron microscopes both at the National Center for Electron Microscopy (NCEM), a Molecular Foundry facility, and at SuperSTEM, the National Research Facility for Advanced Electron Microscopy in Daresbury, U.K., the research team found that while the atoms throughout the interior of the cathode material remained in the same structural pattern across all compositions, decreasing the amount of lithium caused an increase in randomness in the position of certain atoms within the structure.
By comparing different compositions of cathode material to battery performance, the researchers also demonstrated it was possible to optimize battery performance in relation to capacity by using a lower ratio of lithium to other metals.
The most surprising finding was that the surface structure of an unused cathode is very different from the interior of the cathode. A thin layer of material on the surface possessing a different structure, called the "spinel" phase, was found in all of their experiments. Several previous studies had overlooked that this layer might be present on both new and used cathodes.
By systematically varying the ratio of lithium to a transition metal, like trying different amounts of ingredients in a new cookie recipe, the research team was able to study the relationship between the surface and interior structure and to measure the electrochemical performance of the material. The team took images of each batch of the cathode materials from multiple angles and created complete, 3-D renderings of each structure.
"Obtaining such precise, atomic-level information over length scales relevant to battery technologies was a challenge," said Quentin Ramasse, Director of the SuperSTEM Laboratory. "This is a perfect example of why the multiple imaging and spectroscopy techniques available in electron microscopy make it such an indispensable and versatile tool in renewable energy research."
The researchers also used a newly developed technique called 4-D scanning transmission electron microscopy (4-D STEM). In transmission electron microscopy (TEM), images are formed after electrons pass through a thin sample. In conventional scanning transmission electrode microscopy (STEM), the electron beam is focused down to a very small spot (as small as 0.5 nanometers, or billionths of a meter, in diameter) and then that spot is scanned back and forth over the sample like a mower on a lawn.
The detector in conventional STEM simply counts how many electrons are scattered (or not scattered) in each pixel. However, in 4D-STEM, the researchers use a high-speed electron detector to record where each electron scatters, from each scanned point. It allows researchers to measure the local structure of their sample at high resolution over a large field of view.
"The introduction of high-speed electron cameras allows us to extract atomic-scale information from very large sample dimensions," said Colin Ophus, a research scientist at NCEM. "4D-STEM experiments mean we no longer need to make a tradeoff between the smallest features we can resolve and the field-of-view that we are observing - we can analyze the atomic structure of the entire particle at once."
This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Office of Basic Science, and Small Business Voucher Pilot Program; Envia Systems; and the U.K.'s Engineering and Physical Science Research Council.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world's most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab's scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel Prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. For more, visit http://www.lbl.gov.
DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Related Lithium Articles:
Lithium-sulfur batteries have great potential as a low-cost, high-energy, energy source for both vehicle and grid applications.
New research suggests there may be a more modest increased risk of cardiac defects when using lithium during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Rice University scientists build high-capacity lithium metal batteries with anodes made of a graphene-carbon nanotube hybrid.
A team at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) has for the first time fabricated a nanomaterial made from nanoparticles of a titanium oxide compound (Ti4O7) that is characterized by an extremely large surface area, and tested it as a cathode material in lithium-sulphur batteries.
Lithium-oxygen fuel cells boast energy density levels comparable to fossil fuels and are thus seen as a promising candidate for future transportation-related energy needs.
Columbia Engineering Professor Yuan Yang has developed a new method that could lead to lithium batteries that are safer, have longer battery life, and are bendable, providing new possibilities such as flexible smartphones.
Pre-lithiated multiwalled carbon nanotubes and activated carbon (AC) materials were used as anode and cathode respectively for Lithium-ion capacitors (LICs).
Researchers from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and the Council for Scientific Research (initialed CSIC in Spanish) have patented a method for making new ceramic electrodes for lithium-ion batteries that are more efficient, cheaper, more resistant and safer than conventional batteries.
IBS scientists observe the real-time ultrafast bonding of lithium ions with the solvents, in the same process that happens during charging and discharging of lithium batteries, and conclude that a new theory is needed.
Yale scientists have developed an ultra-thin coating material that has the potential to extend the life and improve the efficiency of lithium-sulfur batteries, one of the most promising areas of energy research today.
Related Lithium Reading:
Nutritional Lithium: A Cinderella Story: The Untold Tale of a Mineral That Transforms Lives and Heals the Brain
by James M. Greenblatt MD (Author), Kayla Grossmann RN (Contributor)
In a nation plagued with chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, a different predator is the single greatest reason for disability in the United States: mental disorders.
Our fast-paced and frenetic lifestyle, coupled with a grossly polluted environment, has created the perfect breeding ground for mental instability. With the spread of brain disorders on the rise around the world, nutritional biochemistry and one of its stars, lithium, has stepped into the spotlight to offer proven methods to heal our bodies from the inside out.
Historically linked to... View Details
DIY Lithium Batteries: How to Build Your Own Battery Packs
by Micah Toll (Author)
Are you a hands on person? Do you prefer making things yourself? Are you working on a project that requires lithium batteries? If so, then this book is for you! We'll cover everything you need to know about lithium batteries. From choosing the right cells to designing a battery pack and building it yourself, this book includes all the steps for building safe, effective custom lithium battery packs. View Details
Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind
by Jaime Lowe (Author)
A riveting memoir and a fascinating investigation of the history, uses, and controversies behind lithium, an essential medication for millions of people struggling with bipolar disorder.
It began in Los Angeles in 1993, when Jaime Lowe was just sixteen. She stopped sleeping and eating, and began to hallucinate—demonically cackling Muppets, faces lurking in windows, Michael Jackson delivering messages from the Neverland Underground. Lowe wrote manifestos and math equations in her diary, and drew infographics on her bedroom wall. Eventually, hospitalized and diagnosed as... View Details
Lithium Process Chemistry: Resources, Extraction, Batteries, and Recycling
by Alexandre Chagnes (Editor), Jolanta Swiatowska (Editor)
Lithium Process Chemistry: Resources, Extraction, Batteries and Recycling presents, for the first time, the most recent developments and state-of-the-art of lithium production, lithium-ion batteries, and their recycling.
The book provides fundamental and theoretical knowledge on hydrometallurgy and electrochemistry in lithium-ion batteries, including terminology related to these two fields. It is of particular interest to electrochemists who usually have no knowledge in hydrometallurgy and hydrometallurgists not familiar with electrochemistry applied to Li-ion... View Details
The Essential Guide to Lithium Treatment
by Michael Bauer (Author), Michael Gitlin (Author)
This book is a practical, up-to-date guide to the correct use of lithium for the short- and long-term treatment of mood disorders. Among the subjects addressed are the pharmacology and mechanisms of action of lithium, its use for maintenance treatment, the role of lithium in the treatment of mania and depression and in suicide prevention, further clinical indications, the administration of lithium during pregnancy and the postpartum period, and adverse effects and their management. Relevant background information is provided on the diagnosis, classification, and natural course of mood... View Details
Lithium Tides: A Lithium Springs Novel
Whose bed is this?
That was Kensie’s first thought as she peeled her eyes open to find herself in an unfamiliar room. She noted the crumpled red dress, tiny black thong, and Louboutin heels in the corner.
Whose arms are these?
That was her second thought as the tattooed arms engulfing her tightened their grip. Her phone buzzed on the nightstand. Carefully, without waking up the man behind her, she reached for it. The name on the display read Prince Charming.
"How are you still asleep at one in the afternoon?" Trey's... View Details
Lithium (Blackwood Elements Book 2)
by Undercover Publishing Limited
Every girl loves ice cream, right?
Not Sofia. She's tried all the flavours, but plain old Vanilla was her downfall.
A trip to the Cayman Islands to give her ex what he deserves is made all the more complicated by her fear of water—not easy to handle at the best of times, but he’s taken up residence on a yacht.
She cooks up a special recipe for revenge, and it’s a dish best served chilled. But will handsome stranger Leo add some unwanted heat into the kitchen?
Lithium is a standalone romantic thriller within the Blackwood Elements series. No cliffhanger! View Details
Mathematical Modeling of Lithium Batteries: From Electrochemical Models to State Estimator Algorithms (Green Energy and Technology)
by Krishnan S. Hariharan (Author), Piyush Tagade (Author), Sanoop Ramachandran (Author)
This book is unique to be the only one completely dedicated for battery modeling for all components of battery management system (BMS) applications. The contents of this book compliment the multitude of research publications in this domain by providing coherent fundamentals. An explosive market of Li ion batteries has led to aggressive demand for mathematical models for battery management systems (BMS). Researchers from multi-various backgrounds contribute from their respective background, leading to a lateral growth. Risk of this runaway situation is that researchers tend to use an... View Details
Lithium Jesus: A Memoir of Mania
by Charles Monroe-Kane (Author)
Charles Monroe-Kane is a natural raconteur, and boy, does he have stories to tell. Born into an eccentric Ohio clan of modern hunter-gatherers, he grew up hearing voices in his head. Over a dizzying two decades, he was many things—teenage faith healer, world traveler, smuggler, liberation theologian, ladder-maker, squatter, halibut hanger, grifter, environmental warrior, and circus manager—all the while wrestling with schizophrenia and self-medication.
From Baby Doc’s Haiti to the Czech Velvet Revolution, and from sex, drugs, and a stabbing to public... View Details
Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy
by Seth Fletcher (Author)
The sleek electronic tools that have become so ubiquitous—laptops, iPods, eReaders, and smart phones—are all powered by lithium batteries. Chances are you’ve got some lithium on your person right now. But aside from powering a mobile twenty first-century lifestyle, the third element on the periodic table may also hold the key to an environmentally sustainable, oil-independent future. From electric cars to a “smart” power grid that can actually store electricity, letting us harness the powers of the sun and the wind and use them when we need them, lithium—a metal half as dense... View Details