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Nano Lett. 2014 Jul 9;14(7):4005-10. doi: 10.1021/nl501415b. Epub 2014 Jun 9.

In situ observation of random solid solution zone in LiFePO₄ electrode.

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Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, ‡Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology , Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, United States.


Nanostructured LiFePO4 (LFP) electrodes have attracted great interest in the Li-ion battery field. Recently there have been debates on the presence and role of metastable phases during lithiation/delithiation, originating from the apparent high rate capability of LFP batteries despite poor electronic/ionic conductivities of bulk LFP and FePO4 (FP) phases. Here we report a potentiostatic in situ transmission electron microscopy (TEM) study of LFP electrode kinetics during delithiation. Using in situ high-resolution TEM, a Li-sublattice disordered solid solution zone (SSZ) is observed to form quickly and reach 10-25 nm × 20-40 nm in size, different from the sharp LFP|FP interface observed under other conditions. This 20 nm scale SSZ is quite stable and persists for hundreds of seconds at room temperature during our experiments. In contrast to the nanoscopically sharp LFP|FP interface, the wider SSZ seen here contains no dislocations, so reduced fatigue and enhanced cycle life can be expected along with enhanced rate capability. Our findings suggest that the disordered SSZ could dominate phase transformation behavior at nonequilibrium condition when high current/voltage is applied; for larger particles, the SSZ could still be important as it provides out-of-equilibrium but atomically wide avenues for Li(+)/e(-) transport.


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