New Coating Developed for Lithium Battery Cathodes

Argonne scientists developed a new coating, shown in blue, for battery cathodes to boost the electronic and ionic conductivity of a battery while improving its safety and cycling performance. Image by Argonne National Laboratory.

Building a better lithium-ion battery involves addressing many factors simultaneously, from keeping the battery’s cathode electrically and ionically conductive to making sure that the battery stays safe after many cycles. In a new discovery, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory (Lemont, Illinois, USA) developed a new cathode coating by using an oxidative chemical vapor deposition technique.

“The coating we’ve discovered really hits five or six birds with one stone,” says Khalil Amine, Argonne distinguished fellow and battery scientist. In the DOE-funded research, Amine and his fellow researchers took particles of Argonne’s pioneering nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) cathode material and encapsulated them with a sulfur-containing polymer called PEDOT. This polymer provides the cathode a layer of protection from the battery’s electrolyte as the battery charges and discharges.

Unlike conventional coatings, which only protect the exterior surface of the micron-sized cathode particles and leave the interior vulnerable to cracking, the PEDOT coating penetrates to the cathode particle’s interior. Although PEDOT prevents the chemical interaction between the battery and electrolyte, it does allow for the necessary transport of lithium ions and electrons for the battery to function.

“This coating is essentially friendly to all of the processes and chemistry that makes the battery work and unfriendly to all of the potential reactions that would cause the battery to degrade or malfunction,” says Argonne chemist Guiliang Xu. The coating largely prevents another reaction that causes the cathode to deactivate. In this reaction, the cathode material converts to another form called spinel. “The combination of almost no spinel formation with its other properties makes this coating a very exciting material,” Amine says.

The PEDOT material also demonstrated the ability to prevent oxygen release, a major factor for the degradation of NMC cathode materials at high voltage. “This PEDOT coating was also found to be able to suppress oxygen release during charging, which leads to better structural stability and also improves safety,” says Amine, who believes the coating could be scaled up for use in nickel-rich NMC-containing batteries.

With the coating applied, researchers believe that the NMC-containing batteries could either run at higher voltages—thus increasing their energy output—or have longer lifetimes, or both. To perform the research, the scientists relied on two DOE facilities at Argonne: the Advanced Photon Source (APS) and the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM). In situ high-energy, x-ray diffraction measurements were taken at beamline 11-ID-C of the APS, and focused ion beam lithography and transmission electron microscopy were performed at the CNM.

Source: Argonne National Laboratory,