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Nanoscale details of electrochemical reactions in electric vehicle battery materials
Date:8/4/2014

UPTON, NY-Using a new method to track the electrochemical reactions in a common electric vehicle battery material under operating conditions, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have revealed new insight into why fast charging inhibits this material's performance. The study also provides the first direct experimental evidence to support a particular model of the electrochemical reaction. The results, published August 4, 2014, in Nature Communications, could provide guidance to inform battery makers' efforts to optimize materials for faster-charging batteries with higher capacity.

"Our work was focused on developing a method to track structural and electrochemical changes at the nanoscale as the battery material was charging," said Brookhaven physicist Jun Wang, who led the research. Her group was particularly interested in chemically mapping what happens in lithium iron phosphate-a material commonly used in the cathode, or positive electrode, of electrical vehicle batteries-as the battery charged. "We wanted to catch and monitor the phase transformation that takes place in the cathode as lithium ions move from the cathode to the anode," she said.

Getting as many lithium ions as possible to move from cathode to anode through this process, known as delithiation, is the key to recharging the battery to its fullest capacity so it will be able to provide power for the longest possible period of time. Understanding the subtle details of why that doesn't always happen could ultimately lead to ways to improve battery performance, enabling electric vehicles to travel farther before needing to be recharged.

X-ray imaging and chemical fingerprinting

Many previous methods used to analyze such battery materials have produced data that average out effects over the entire electrode. These methods lack the spatial resolution needed for chemical mapping or nanoscale imaging, a
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Contact: Karen McNulty Walsh
kmcnulty@bnl.gov
631-344-8350
DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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