Determining the fundamental failure modes in Ni-rich lithium ion battery cathodes

S. Wang; Z. Shen; A. Omirkhan; O. Gavalda-Diaz; M. P. Ryan; F. Giuliani

Journal of the European Ceramic Society 43 (2023) 7553-7560

Challenges associated with in-service mechanical degradation of Li-ion battery cathodes has prompted a transition from polycrystalline to single crystal cathode materials. Whilst for single crystal materials, dislocation-assisted crack formation is assumed to be the dominating failure mechanism throughout battery life, there is little direct information about their mechanical behaviour, and mechanistic understanding remains elusive. Here, we demonstrated, using in situ micromechanical testing, direct measurement of local mechanical properties within LiNi0.8Mn0.1Co0.1O2 single crystalline domains. We elucidated the dislocation slip systems, their critical stresses, and how slip facilitate cracking. We then compared single crystal and polycrystal deformation behaviour. Our findings answer two fundamental questions critical to understanding cathode degradation: What dislocation slip systems operate in Ni-rich cathode materials? And how does slip cause fracture? This knowledge unlocks our ability to develop tools for lifetime prediction and failure risk assessment, as well as in designing novel cathode materials with increased toughness in-service.