The chemical phase distribution in hydrothermally grown micrometric single crystals LiFePO4 following partial chemical delithiation was investigated. Full field and scanning X-ray microscopy were combined with X-ray absorption spectroscopy at the Fe K- and O K-edges, respectively, to produce maps with high chemical and spatial resolution. The resulting information was compared to morphological insight into the mechanics of the transformation by scanning transmission electron microscopy. This study revealed the interplay at the mesocale between microstructure and phase distribution during the redox process, as morphological defects were found to kinetically determine the progress of the reaction. Lithium deintercalation was also found to induce severe mechanical damage in the crystals, presumably due to the lattice mismatch between LiFePO4 and FePO4. Our results lead to the conclusion that rational design of intercalation-based electrode materials, such as LiFePO4, with optimized utilization and life requires the tailoring of particles that minimize kinetic barriers and mechanical strain. Coupling TXM-XANES with TEM can provide unique insight into the behavior of electrode materials during operation, at scales spanning from nanoparticles to ensembles and complex architectures.
Keywords: LiFePO4; battery electrode materials; chemical imaging; intercalation reactions.