ACS nano

Surface coating mediated swelling and fracture of silicon nanowires during lithiation.

PMID 25133525


Surface passivation of silicon anodes is an appealing design strategy for the development of reliable, high-capacity lithium-ion batteries. However, the structural stability of the coating layer and its influence on the lithiation process remain largely unclear. Herein, we show that surface coating mediates the swelling dynamics and the fracture pattern during initial lithiation of crystalline silicon nanopillars. We choose conformally nickel coated silicon architectures as a model system. Experimental findings are interpreted based on a chemomechanical model. Markedly different swelling and fracture regimes have been identified, depending on the coating thickness and silicon nanopillar diameter. Nanopillars with relatively thin coating display anisotropic swelling similar to pristine nanopillars, but with different preferred fracture sites. As the coating thickness increases, the mechanisms become isotropic, with one randomly oriented longitudinal crack that unzips the core-shell structure. The morphology of cracked pillars resembles that of a thin-film electrode on a substrate, which is more amenable to cyclic lithiation without fracture. The knowledge provided here helps clarify the cycling results of coated nanosilicon electrodes and further suggests design rules for better performance electrodes through proper control of the lithiation and fracture.