Topological defect dynamics in operando battery nanoparticles

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Science  19 Jun 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6241, pp. 1344-1347
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa1313

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Watching defects during battery cycling

Dislocations affect the mechanical properties of a material. Ulvestad et al. studied the influence of dislocations on a nanoparticle undergoing charge and discharge cycles in a lithium ion battery. The defects influenced the way the material expanded and contracted during cycling. In the future, it may be possible to tune the properties of a material through controlled defect engineering.

Science, this issue p. 1344


Topological defects can markedly alter nanomaterial properties. This presents opportunities for “defect engineering,” where desired functionalities are generated through defect manipulation. However, imaging defects in working devices with nanoscale resolution remains elusive. We report three-dimensional imaging of dislocation dynamics in individual battery cathode nanoparticles under operando conditions using Bragg coherent diffractive imaging. Dislocations are static at room temperature and mobile during charge transport. During the structural phase transformation, the lithium-rich phase nucleates near the dislocation and spreads inhomogeneously. The dislocation field is a local probe of elastic properties, and we find that a region of the material exhibits a negative Poisson’s ratio at high voltage. Operando dislocation imaging thus opens a powerful avenue for facilitating improvement and rational design of nanostructured materials.

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