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Methods—Kintsugi imaging of battery electrodes: distinguishing pores from the carbon binder domain using Pt deposition

  • Cooper, SJ
  • Roberts, SA
  • Liu, Z
  • Winiarski, B
Publication Date
Jul 01, 2022
UPCommons. Portal del coneixement obert de la UPC
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The mesostructure of porous electrodes used in lithium-ion batteries strongly influences cell performance. Accurate imaging of the distribution of phases in these electrodes would allow this relationship to be better understood through simulation. However, imaging the nanoscale features in these components is challenging. While scanning electron microscopy is able to achieve the required resolution, it has well established difficulties imaging porous media. This is because the flat imaging planes prepared using focused ion beam milling will intersect with the pores, which makes the images hard to interpret as the inside walls of the pores are observed. It is common to infiltrate porous media with resin prior to imaging to help resolve this issue, but both the nanoscale porosity and the chemical similarity of the resins to the battery materials undermine the utility of this approach for most electrodes. In this study, a technique is demonstrated which uses in situ infiltration of platinum to fill the pores and thus enhance their contrast during imaging. Reminiscent of the Japanese art of repairing cracked ceramics with precious metals, this technique is referred to as the kintsugi method. The images resulting from applying this technique to a conventional porous cathode are presented and then segmented using a multi-channel convolutional method. We show that while some cracks in active material particles were empty, others appear to be filled (perhaps with the carbon binder phase), which will have implications for the rate performance of the cell. Energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy was used to validate the distribution of phases resulting from image analysis, which also suggested a graded distribution of the binder relative to the carbon additive. The equipment required to use the kintsugi method is commonly available in major research facilities and so we hope that this method will be rapidly adopted to improve the imaging of electrode materials and porous media in general.

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