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In Situ Studies of Solid Electrolyte Interphase (SEI) Formation on Crystalline Carbon Surfaces by Neutron Reflectometry and Atomic Force Microscopy

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posted on 18.09.2017, 00:00 by Miriam Steinhauer, Michael Stich, Mario Kurniawan, Beatrix-Kamelia Seidlhofer, Marcus Trapp, Andreas Bund, Norbert Wagner, K. Andreas Friedrich
The solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) is a complex and fragile passivation layer with crucial importance for the functionality of lithium-ion batteries. Due to its fragility and reactivity, the use of in situ techniques is preferable for the determination of the SEI’s true structure and morphology during its formation. In this study, we use in situ neutron reflectometry (NR) and in situ atomic force microscopy (AFM) to investigate the SEI formation on a carbon surface. It was found that a lithium-rich adsorption layer is already present at the open circuit voltage on the carbon sample surface and that the first decomposition products start to deposit close to this potential. During the negative potential sweep, the growth of the SEI can be observed in detail by AFM and NR. This allows precise monitoring of the morphology evolution and the resulting heterogeneities of individual SEI features. NR measurements show a maximum SEI thickness of 192 Å at the lower cutoff potential (0.02 V vs Li/Li+), which slightly decreases during the positive potential scan. The scattering length density (SLD) obtained by NR provides additional information on the SEI’s chemical nature and structural evolution.

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