Direct Observation of Active Material Concentration Gradients and Crystallinity Breakdown in LiFePO 4 Electrodes During Charge/Discharge Cycling of Lithium Batteries

J Phys Chem C Nanomater Interfaces. 2014 Apr 3;118(13):6548-6557. doi: 10.1021/jp411152s. Epub 2014 Feb 26.


The phase changes that occur during discharge of an electrode comprised of LiFePO4, carbon, and PTFE binder have been studied in lithium half cells by using X-ray diffraction measurements in reflection geometry. Differences in the state of charge between the front and the back of LiFePO4 electrodes have been visualized. By modifying the X-ray incident angle the depth of penetration of the X-ray beam into the electrode was altered, allowing for the examination of any concentration gradients that were present within the electrode. At high rates of discharge the electrode side facing the current collector underwent limited lithium insertion while the electrode as a whole underwent greater than 50% of discharge. This behavior is consistent with depletion at high rate of the lithium content of the electrolyte contained in the electrode pores. Increases in the diffraction peak widths indicated a breakdown of crystallinity within the active material during cycling even during the relatively short duration of these experiments, which can also be linked to cycling at high rate.