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Batteries The top row shows how tin particles evolve in three dimensions during the first two lithiation–delithiation cycles in the model lithium-ion rechargeable battery cell. The bottom row shows "cross-sectional" images of a single tin particle during the first two cycles. Severe fracture and pulverization occur during the initial stage of cycling. The particle stays mechanically stable after the first cycle, while the electrochemical reaction proceeds reversibly.
Image Credit: DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory

Published on March 31st, 2014 | by James Ayre

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First 3-D Nanoscale Observations Of Structural Changes In Rechargeable Battery Material During Operation

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March 31st, 2014 by
 
The first 3-D nanoscale observations of the structural changes that occur in the anode of a lithium-ion battery during operation (discharging and recharging) were recently achieved by researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory.

This achievement is expected to lead to a much greater understanding of such processes, and, as a result, to the creation of new ways of engineering battery materials to increase the capacity and lifetime of rechargeable batteries.

The top row shows how tin particles evolve in three dimensions during the first two lithiation–delithiation cycles in the model lithium-ion rechargeable battery cell. The bottom row shows "cross-sectional" images of a single tin particle during the first two cycles. Severe fracture and pulverization occur during the initial stage of cycling. The particle stays mechanically stable after the first cycle, while the electrochemical reaction proceeds reversibly. Image Credit: DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory

The top row shows how tin particles evolve in three dimensions during the first two lithiation–delithiation cycles in the model lithium-ion rechargeable battery cell. The bottom row shows “cross-sectional” images of a single tin particle during the first two cycles. Severe fracture and pulverization occur during the initial stage of cycling. The particle stays mechanically stable after the first cycle, while the electrochemical reaction proceeds reversibly.
Image Credit: DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory

“For the first time, we have captured the microstructural details of an operating battery anode in 3-D with nanoscale resolution. This work offers a direct way to look inside the electrochemical reaction of batteries at the nanoscale to better understand the mechanism of structural degradation that occurs during a battery’s charge/discharge cycles,” stated lead researcher, Brookhaven physicist Jun Wang. “These findings can be used to guide the engineering and processing of advanced electrode materials and improve theoretical simulations with accurate 3-D parameters.”

It’s long been known that as batteries are subjected to repeated charge/discharge cycles that microstructural changes in the electrode material occur — these changes then, over time, cumulatively reduce the battery’s capacity. Understanding exactly, in detail, how and when in the process these changes and damage occur is key to addressing the problem — and creating means of minimizing these changes.

That’s where this new work comes in.

“For the first time,” explained Wang, “we have captured the microstructural details of an operating battery anode in 3D with nanoscale resolution, using a new in-situ micro-battery-cell we developed for synchrotron x-ray nano-tomography — an invaluable tool for reaching this goal.”

The path to the achievement of this goal was rather complicated, so I won’t go into much more detail here — those interested can read more at the Brookhaven National Laboratory’s website.

The new findings are detailed in a paper published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.



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