Case Study: Solid-state chemistry in secondary LiMn2O4 (LMO) particles during lithiation and its impact on the performance of the electrode

Companies involved:

Finden Ltd, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, University College London, Electrochemical Innovation Lab (EIL), ESRF


With falling costs and rising energy density, lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries are becoming the obvious choice for energy storage for an increasing array of applications, with the greatest demand expected to come from electrified transport. Improving the performance and safety of Li-ion batteries is imperative. Dynamic chemical and structural heterogeneities across multiple length scales are known to lead to battery degradation and failure. The performance of lithium ion electrodes is hindered by unfavorable chemical heterogeneities that pre-exist or develop during operation. Time-resolved spatial descriptions are needed to understand the link between such heterogeneities and a cell’s performance.

Lattice parameters from XRD-CT reconstructions of the LixMn2O4 electrode during lithiation

a (Top left) 2 µm resolution multi-slice XRD computed tomogram used to identify a region of interest. (1–5) Sequential 1 µm resolution XRD-CT slices taken during discharge of the Li vs LMO cell, showing the progression of lithiation of the LMO phase. Scale bar is 50 µm. b Histograms composed of the lattice parameter values assigned to each voxel in XRD-CT slices 1–5. The pink region highlights the range of lattice parameter values over which a bi-phasic reaction of LixMn2O4 passes without occupying, i.e., a region that is not characteristic of the spinel LixMn2O4 stoichiometry.


Li-ion battery cell with LiMn2O4 and Graphite electrodes


Non-destructive in situ X-ray microscopy techniques are valuable tools for quantifying heterogeneities spatially and temporally within cells. Capturing the dynamics of heterogeneities in large representative volumes, in relevant operating environments, and with resolutions sufficient for sub-particle measurements is highly desirable to achieve insight into inter and intra particle phenomena.

Here, operando high-resolution X-ray diffraction-computed tomography is used to spatially and temporally quantify crystallographic heterogeneities within and between particles throughout both fresh and degraded LixMn2O4electrodes. This imaging technique facilitates identification of stoichiometric differences between particles and stoichiometric gradients and phase heterogeneities within particles.


X-ray diffraction-computed tomography (XRD-CT) enables non-destructive 3D crystallographic mapping and has been applied to Li-ion batteries for quantifying chemical heterogeneities in the bulk electrode and cell. With recent advances in synchrotron brilliance, detector capabilities, and data processing strategies, high-resolution 3D operando chemical imaging is now possible. Representative sample volumes can now be captured with sub-micrometer resolution over short periods of time, facilitating operando, inter and intra electrode particle measurements.

This work demonstrates the application of the state-of-the-art, high-speed and high-resolution XRD-CT capability of the ID15A beamline at The European Synchrotron (ESRF) for characterizing, in 3D, the dynamic crystallographic structure between and within LMO particles during operation.  This work establishes a major advancement in diagnostic capabilities for complex Li-ion chemistries, which is expected to equip future studies with the tools required for detailing the sub-particle chemical and structural heterogeneities in Li-ion cells for a range of electrode formulations.

Further reading:

Spatial quantification of dynamic inter and intra particle crystallographic heterogeneities within lithium ion electrodes. Finegan, D.P., Vamvakeros, A., Tan, C. et al., Nat Commun 11, 631 (2020), DOI: