June 2, 2023
Journal Article

Tracking the oxidation of silicon anodes using cryo-EELS upon battery cycling


Silicon is a high-capacity material for the anode of a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. One of the fundamental challenges for using Si in anodes is capacity fading, which has been revealed to be partially associated with the interfacial instability between the Si and liquid electrolyte due to the large volume swing of Si upon charging and discharging. Smart nanoscale design concepts, either pre-synthesized or formed in-situ, have led to the mitigation of the detrimental factors associated with the volume swing of Si. However, it has never been clear as how the chemical state of Si evolves and contributes to the capacity fading upon battery cycling. Here, we use cryo-electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS) to directly monitor, at sub-nanometer scale, the chemical evolution of Si upon battery cycling. We discover that during the cycling process, Si particles are progressively oxidized to form SiO2, which is initiated from the particle surface and gradually penetrates toward the interior of the particle, directly contributing to the capacity fading. Possible mechanisms of Si oxidation are postulated. We further show how the cycling stability can be improved by an electrolyte additive to form an effective passivation layer, representatively, even a small concentration of fluoroethylene carbonate (FEC) causes the formation of an LiF layer on the Si nanoparticle surface that prevents Si oxidation and improves cycling stability. The present work unveils Si oxidation as a previously unrecognized factor that contributes to capacity fading, therefore providing insight into the design of anodes with Si based materials.

Published: June 2, 2023


Quinn J.P., B. Wu, Y. Xu, M.H. Engelhard, J. Xiao, and C. Wang. 2022. Tracking the oxidation of silicon anodes using cryo-EELS upon battery cycling. ACS Nano 16, no. 12:21063–21070. PNNL-SA-180092. doi:10.1021/acsnano.2c08777