Topological and network analysis of lithium ion battery components: the importance of pore space connectivity for cell operation†
The structure of lithium ion battery components, such as electrodes and separators, are commonly characterised in terms of their porosity and tortuosity. The ratio of these values gives the effective transport coefficient of lithium ions in the electrolyte-filled pore spaces, which can be used to determine the ionic resistivity and corresponding voltage losses. Here, we show that these microstructural characteristics are not sufficient. Analysis of tomographic data of commercial separators reveals that different polyolefin separators have similar porosity and through-plane tortuosity, which, in the homogenised picture of lithium ion cell operation, would imply that these different separators exhibit similar performance. However, numerical diffusion simulations indicate that this is not the case. We demonstrate that the extent to which lithium ion concentration gradients are induced or smoothed by the separator structure is linked to pore space connectivity, a parameter that can be determined by topological or network based analysis of separators. These findings enable us to propose how to design separator microstructures that are safer and accommodate fast charge and discharge.