Operando Synchrotron Studies of Inhomogeneity during Anode-Free Plating of Li Metal in Pouch Cell Batteries

Monty R. Cosby, Gia M. Carignan, Zhuo Li, Corey M. Efaw, Charles C. Dickerson, Liang Yin, Yang Ren, Bin Li, Eric J. Dufek and Peter G. Khalifah

February 2022 - Operando synchrotron X-ray diffraction (XRD) studies have not previously been used to directly characterize Li metal in standard batteries due to the extremely weak scattering from Li atoms. In this work, it is demonstrated the stripping and plating of Li metal can be effectively quantified during battery cycling in appropriately designed synchrotron XRD experiments that utilize an anode-free battery configuration in which a Li-containing cathode material of LiNi0.6Mn0.2Co0.2O2 (NMC622) is paired with a bare anode current collector consisting of either Cu metal (Cu/NMC) or Mo metal (Mo/NMC). In this configuration, it is possible to probe local variations in the deposition and stripping of Li metal with sufficient spatial sensitivity to map the inhomogeneity in pouch cells and to follow these processes with sufficient time resolution to track state-of-charge-dependent variations in the rate of Li usage at a single point. For the Cu/NMC and Mo/NMC batteries, it was observed that the initial plating of Li occurred in a very homogeneous manner but that severe macroscopic inhomogeneity arose on a mm-scale during the subsequent stripping of Li, contrasting with the conventional wisdom that the greatest challenges in Li metal batteries are associated with Li deposition.

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