Characterization of Annealing-Induced Phase Segregation in Composite Silicon Anodes for Li-ion Batteries

Zoey Huey, G. Carroll, Patrick Walker, Steven DeCaluwe, Chun-Sheng Jiang

Research output: NRELPoster


Silicon (Si) anodes present a promising alternative to graphite anodes for lithium-ion batteries (LIBs), as Si has a greater specific capacity. However, one major constraint is the volumetric change of Si during lithiation that results in an unstable solid-electrolyte interphase (SEI), so Si-containing electrodes require the use of various strategies to mitigate these effects and improve performance. One such solution is the use of Si nanoparticles (NPs) that maximize the surface area to volume ratio. Here, we discuss electrodes made with Si NPs treated with polyethylene oxide (PEO) (for improving dispersion during processing), conductive carbon NPs, and P84 polyimide binder which shows significant impacts of annealing treatment on improvements of active material utilization, first cycle efficiency, and capacity retention with extensive cycling . We used air-free argon ion polishing to create electrode cross sections and imaged through the electrode thickness using atomic force microscopy (AFM)-based nano-electrical characterization of scanning spreading resistance microscopy (SSRM), nano-mechanical characterizations of contact resonance and force volume (CR-FV), and scanning electron microscopy-based energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS). Results show that the Si and conductive carbon segregate into phases with a distinctive carbon-rich banded morphology that surrounds the Si-rich phase during annealing. In pristine electrodes, the carbon- and SEI-rich bands exhibit a higher electronic conductivity and a lower elastic modulus than the Si active material phase. These structures, as well as distinct electronic and mechanical properties, remain during cycling, suggesting an improvement of electrical conduction pathways and a mechanical strain buffer for active Si material expansion during cycling. This phase separation may be a major factor in the improvement seen in electrochemical performance due to annealing. Additionally, our nm-scale and multi-mode characterizations provide a novel route for understanding and improving energy storage devices, which is advantageous due to the highly inhomogeneous of composite electrodes in nm-mm scales.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePresented at the 2023 Materials Research Society Spring Meeting & Exhibit, 10-14 April 2023, San Francisco, California

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-5K00-85797


  • lithium ion batteries
  • scanning probe microscopy
  • silicon electrodes


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