Optimising nickel-rich cathode materials enhances performance of lithium batteries

Scientists at the South China University of Technology have made a breakthrough in advancing nickel-rich cathode materials that may help to pioneer high-performance lithium-ion batteries.

The university team has investigated how the surface modifications of nickel-rich cathode materials improve their performance, summarising the mechanism based on the Periodic Table for the first time. The research may be instrumental in developing next-generation lithium batteries that will help power the energy transition.

The study is published in the journal International Journal of Extreme Manufacturing.

What are surface modifications?

Surface modification is one of the primary techniques used to mitigate the decomposition of nickel-rich cathode materials from the electrolyte. Nevertheless, challenges persist due to the synthetic process of nickel-rich cathode materials requiring a high-dry environment, with the structure of the materials changing in moist air.

When nickel-rich cathode materials and particles come into contact with these surface modifications, the particles and structures modify their configuration in response to the degeneration of the capacity. Surface modifications on nickel-rich cathode materials control the performance of lithium batteries for clean electricity generation, in addition to determining their efficiency

Professor Chenghao Yang, one of the lead researchers at the university, commented: “Given the widespread industrial and scientific importance of such behaviour, it is truly surprising how much we still have to learn about the mechanism of how modified elements behave on surfaces in contact with the bulk structure. One of the reasons information is missing is the absence of techniques able to yield many alternative nickel-rich cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries.

“In this review, we summarised the novel modification technology based on the Periodic Table in order to provide more designed strategies for surface modification.”

Advancing nickel-rich cathode materials for lithium batteries

For their study, the team synthesised and modified a series of nickel-rich cathode materials with specific reagents and technology. By analysing how the modified elements were synthesised on the surface and structure and by comparing them to electrochemical performance, the researchers were able to determine how they influence the performance of nickel-rich cathode materials for lithium batteries.

The surface modification for precursor was discovered to be beneficial for the occupation of the modified elements and inhibited the phase transition. The scientists are confident that their experimental technology can be used for a variety of applications to advance lithium batteries.

Professor Yang concluded: “This is a milestone achievement, and it is only the beginning—we are already looking to use these modifications to support the development of nickel-rich cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries needed to achieve the world’s net zero ambitions.”

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