Quantifying Transport, Geometrical, and Morphological Parameters in Li-Ion Cathode Phases Using X‑ray Microtomography

The charge/discharge capabilities of Li-ion cathodes are influenced by the meso-scale geometry, transport properties, and morphological parameters of the constituent phases in the cathode: active material, binder, conductive additive, and pore. Electrode processing influences the structure and attendant properties of these constituents. Thus, performance of the battery can be enhanced by correlating various electrode processing techniques with the charge/discharge behavior in the lithium-ion cathodes. X-ray microtomography was used to image samples obtained from pristine Li­(Ni<sub>1/3</sub>Mn<sub>1/3</sub>Co<sub>1/3</sub>)­O<sub>2</sub> (NMC) cathodes subjected to distinct processing approaches. Two sample preparation approaches were applied to the samples prior to microtomography. Casting the samples in epoxy yielded only the cathode active material domain. Encapsulating the sample with Kapton tape yielded phase contrast data that permitted segmentation of the active material and combined carbon/binder and pore regions. Geometrical and morphological details of the active material and the secondary phases were characterized and compared between the varied processing approaches. Calendered and ball-milled samples exhibited distinct differences in both geometry and morphology. Drying modes demonstrated variation in the distribution of the secondary and pore phases. Applying phase contrast capabilities, the processing–morphology relationship can be better understood to enhance overall battery performance across multiple scales.