Experimental visualization of lithium diffusion in LixFePO4

Nat Mater. 2008 Sep;7(9):707-11. doi: 10.1038/nmat2251.


Chemical energy storage using batteries will become increasingly important for future environmentally friendly ('green') societies. The lithium-ion battery is the most advanced energy storage system, but its application has been limited to portable electronics devices owing to cost and safety issues. State-of-the-art LiFePO4 technology as a new cathode material with surprisingly high charge-discharge rate capability has opened the door for large-scale application of lithium-ion batteries such as in plug-in hybrid vehicles. The scientific community has raised the important question of why a facile redox reaction is possible in the insulating material. Geometric information on lithium diffusion is essential to understand the facile electrode reaction of LixFePO4 (0<x<1), but previous approaches have been limited to computational predictions. Here, we provide long-awaited experimental evidence for a curved one-dimensional chain for lithium motion. By combining high-temperature powder neutron diffraction and the maximum entropy method, lithium distribution along the [010] direction was clearly visualized.

Publication types

  • Letter