Assembling metal oxide nanocrystals into dense, hollow, porous nanoparticles for lithium-ion and lithium–oxygen battery application†
New dense hollow porous (DHP) metal oxide nanoparticles that are smaller than 100 nm and composed of Co3O4, FeOx, NiO and MnOx were prepared by densely assembling metal oxide nanocrystals based on the hard-template method using a carbon colloid as a sacrificial core. These nanoparticles are quite different from the traditional particles as their hollow interior originates from the stacking of nanocrystals rather than a spherical shell. The DHP nanoparticles preserve the intriguing properties of nanocrystals and possess desirable surface area and pore volume that enhance the active surface, which ultimately benefits applications such as lithium-ion batteries. The DHP Co3O4 nanoparticles demonstrated an enhanced capacity of 1168 mA h g−1 at 100 mA g−1vs. 590 mA h g−1 of powders and stable cycling performance greater than 250 cycles when used as an anode material. Most importantly, the electrochemical performance of DHP Co3O4 nanoparticles in a lithium–O2 battery was also investigated for the first time. A low charge potential of ∼4.0 V, a high discharge voltage near 2.74 V and a long cycle ability greater than 100 cycles at a delivered capacity of 2000 mA h g−1 (current density, 200 mA g−1) were observed. The performances were considerably improved compared to recent results of mesoporous Co3O4, Co3O4 nanoparticles and a composite of Co3O4/RGO and Co3O4/Pd. Therefore, it would be promising to investigate such properties of DHP nanoparticles or other hollow metal (oxide) particles for the popular lithium–air battery.