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Nat Mater. 2003 Jul;2(7):464-7.

Atomic resolution of lithium ions in LiCoO2.

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  • 1Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA. shaohorn@mit.edu

Abstract

LiCoO2 is the most common lithium storage material for lithium rechargeable batteries, used widely to power portable electronic devices such as laptop computers. Operation of lithium rechargeable batteries is dependent on reversible lithium insertion and extraction processes into and from the host materials of lithium storage. Ordering of lithium and vacancies has a profound effect on the physical properties of the host materials and the electrochemical performance of lithium batteries. However, probing lithium ions has been difficult when using traditional X-ray and neutron powder diffraction techniques due to lithium's relatively low scattering power when compared with those of oxygen and transition metals. In the work presented here, we have succeeded in simultaneously resolving columns of cobalt, oxygen and lithium atoms in layered LiCoO2 battery material, using experimental focal series of LiCoO2 images obtained at sub-ångstrom resolution in a mid-voltage transmission electron microscope. Lithium atoms are the smallest and lightest metal atoms, and scatter electrons only very weakly. We believe our observations of lithium to be the first by electron microscopy, and that they show promise for direct visualization of the ordering of lithium and vacancies in transition metal oxides.

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