Understanding multi-scale battery degradation with a macro-to-nano zoom through its hierarchy†
Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) feature structural and chemical complexities across a broad range of length scales. It is the hierarchy of the battery structure that determines its functionality. An in-depth understanding of the battery function, degradation, and failure mechanisms requires a thorough and systematic investigation from structural, chemical, mechanical, and dynamic perspectives. Here we present a macro-to-nano zoom through the hierarchy of a commercial 18650 type LIB using a suite of state-of-the-art X-ray microscopy techniques. Damage, deformation, and heterogeneity at different length scales are visualized and are associated with different degradation phenomena and mechanisms. Our results highlight the importance of the mechanical properties of the cathode material, which could impact both the immediate and the long-term cell behaviors significantly. While this study focuses on a commercial lithium cell with a standard configuration, our findings can be extrapolated and are applicable to the development of next-generation energy storage technology, e.g. solid-state batteries.