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IRG-IV Nugget

Atomic imaging of lithium in LiCoO2 for lithium batteries

Figure: Structure of high capacity
Li(Ni0.5Mn00.5)O2

Widely used in laptop computers, digital cameras, and many other devices, lithium ion batteries store more energy for their weight, operate at a higher voltage, and hold a charge much longer than other rechargeable batteries.

The obstacle to even lighter and longer-life batteries is the development of better cathode electrodes. To enhance battery capacity in many applications, materials are needed which can store more Li for less weight and lower cost of the components. Li(Ni0.5Mn00.5)O2 is a material that recently has shown much promise with capacities 25-40% higher than LiCoO2, the standard material currently used. However, its detailed structure was currently unknown making it difficult to design targeted improvements to the material, or to understand the effect processing has on the performance of the material.

Using a combination of Transmission Electron Microscopy, x-ray diffraction and computational simulation, the IRG-IV team was able to deduce the detailed structure of this material (see Figure above) and found it to be considerably more complex than had previously been imagined. The clearer understanding of this structure promises to create the opportunity to design more optimized materials in this class of cathodes, and ultimately batteries with longer run time and power. The latter is critical for new applications, such as hybrid vehicles.

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