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Finding a Needle in the Haystack: Identification of Functionally Important Minority Phases in an Operating Battery

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-11-08, 00:00 authored by Kai Zhang, Fang Ren, Xuelong Wang, Enyuan Hu, Yahong Xu, Xiao-Qing Yang, Hong Li, Liquan Chen, Piero Pianetta, Apurva Mehta, Xiqian Yu, Yijin Liu
The in-depth understanding of the minority phases’ roles in functional materials, e.g., batteries, is critical for optimizing the system performance and the operational efficiency. Although the visualization of battery electrode under operating conditions has been demonstrated, the development of advanced data-mining approaches is still needed in order to identify minority phases and to understand their functionalities. The present study uses nanoscale X-ray spectromicroscopy to study a functional LiCoO2/Li battery pouch cell. The data-mining approaches developed herein were used to search through over 10 million X-ray absorption spectra that cover more than 100 active cathode particles. Two particles with unanticipated chemical fingerprints were identified and further analyzed, providing direct evidence and valuable insight into the undesired side reactions involving the cation dissolution and precipitation as well as the local overlithiation-caused subparticle domain deactivation. The data-mining approach described in this work is widely applicable to many other structurally complex and chemically heterogeneous systems, in which the secondary/minority phases could critically affect the overall performance of the system, well beyond battery research.