Distinct Surface and Bulk Thermal Behaviors of LiNi0.6Mn0.2Co0.2O2 Cathode Materials as a Function of State of Charge
Understanding how structural and chemical transformations take place in particles under thermal conditions can inform designing thermally robust electrode materials. Such a study necessitates the use of diagnostic techniques that are capable of probing the transformations at multiple length scales and at different states of charge (SOC). In this study, the thermal behavior of LiNi0.6Mn0.2Co0.2O2 (NMC-622) was examined as a function of SOC, using an array of bulk and surface-sensitive techniques. In general, thermal stability decreases as lithium content is lowered and conversion in the bulk to progressively reduced metal oxides (spinels, rock salt) occurs as the temperature is raised. Hard X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) and X-ray Raman spectroscopy (XRS) experiments, which probe the bulk, reveal that Ni and Co are eventually reduced when partially delithiated samples (regardless of the SOC) are heated, although Mn is not. Surface-sensitive synchrotron techniques, such as soft XAS and transmission X-ray microscopy (TXM), however, reveal that for 50% delithiated samples, apparent oxidation of nickel occurs at particle surfaces under some circumstances. This is partially compensated by reduction of cobalt but may also be a consequence of redistribution of lithium ions upon heating. TXM results indicate the movement of reduced nickel ions into particle interiors or oxidized nickel ions to the surface or both. These experiments illustrate the complexity of the thermal behavior of NMC cathode materials. The study also informs the importance of investigating the surface and bulk difference as a function of SOC when studying the thermal behaviors of battery materials.