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Nanoscale mapping of ion diffusion in a lithium-ion battery cathode

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Nature Nanotechnology
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The movement of lithium ions into and out of electrodes is central to the operation of lithium-ion batteries. Although this process has been extensively studied at the device level, it remains insufficiently characterized at the nanoscale level of grain clusters, single grains and defects. Here, we probe the spatial variation of lithium-ion diffusion times in the battery-cathode material LiCoO2 at a resolution of ∼100 nm by using an atomic force microscope to both redistribute lithium ions and measure the resulting cathode deformation. The relationship between diffusion and single grains and grain boundaries is observed, revealing that the diffusion coefficient increases for certain grain orientations and single-grain boundaries. This knowledge provides feedback to improve understanding of the nanoscale mechanisms underpinning lithium-ion battery operation.