Motivated by new applications including electric vehicles and the smart grid, interest in advanced lithium ion batteries has increased significantly over the past decade. Therefore, research in this field has intensified to produce safer devices with better electrochemical performance. Most research has focused on the development of new electrode materials through the optimization of bulk properties such as crystal structure, ionic diffusivity, and electric conductivity. More recently, researchers have also considered the surface properties of electrodes as critical factors for optimizing performance. In particular, the electrolyte decomposition at the electrode surface relates to both a lithium ion battery’s electrochemical performance and safety. In this Account, we give an overview of the major developments in the area of surface chemistry for lithium ion batteries. These ideas will provide the basis for the design of advanced electrode materials.
Initially, we present a brief background to lithium ion batteries such as major chemical components and reactions that occur in lithium ion batteries. Then, we highlight the role of surface chemistry in the safety of lithium ion batteries. We examine the thermal stability of cathode materials: For example, we discuss the oxygen generation from cathode materials and describe how cells can swell and heat up in response to specific conditions. We also demonstrate how coating the surfaces of electrodes can improve safety. The surface chemistry can also affect the electrochemistry of lithium ion batteries. The surface coating strategy improved the energy density and cycle performance for layered LiCoO2, xLi2MnO3·(1 – x)LiMO2 (M = Mn, Ni, Co, and their combinations), and LiMn2O4 spinel materials, and we describe a working mechanism for these enhancements.
Although coating the surfaces of cathodes with inorganic materials such as metal oxides and phosphates improves the electrochemical performance and safety properties of batteries, the microstructure of the coating layers and the mechanism of action are not fully understood. Therefore, researchers will need to further investigate the surface coating strategy during the development of new lithium ion batteries.