Nanospherical solid electrolyte interface layer formation in binder-free carbon nanotube aerogel/Si nanohybrids to provide lithium-ion battery anodes with a long-cycle life and high capacity
Silicon anodes for lithium ion batteries (LiBs) have been attracting considerable attention due to a theoretical capacity up to about 10 times higher than that of conventional graphite. However, huge volume expansion during the cycle causes cracks in the silicon, resulting in the degradation of cycling performance and eventual failure. Moreover, low electrical conductivity and an unstable solid electrolyte interface (SEI) layer resulting from repeated changes in volume still block the next step forward for the commercialization of the silicon material. Herein we demonstrate the carbon nanotube (CNT) aerogel/Si nanohybrid structure for anode materials of LiBs via freeze casting followed by an RF magnetron sputtering process, exhibiting improved capacity retention compared to Si only samples during 1000 electrochemical cycles. The CNT aerogels as 3D porous scaffold structures could provide buffer volume for the expansion/shrinkage of Si lattices upon cycling and increase electrical conductivity. In addition, the nanospherical and relatively thin SEI layers of the CNT aerogel/Si nanohybrid structure show better lithium ion diffusion characteristics during cycling. For this reason, the Si@CNT aerogel anode still yielded a high specific capacity of 1439 mA h g−1 after 1000 charge/discharge cycles with low capacity fading. Our approach could be applied to other group IV LiB materials that undergo large volume changes, and also has promising potential for high performance energy applications.