Particle size and zeta potential of electrode materials: better characterization, better performance

Nowadays the power efficiency of many portable devices such as mobile phones, tablets or speakers is extremely related to the use of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, which have a high working voltage and a high energy density. In recent years, their application has expanded in various fields such as electric bicycles, electric vehicles, and hybrid vehicles. For this reason, the particle characterization of electrode materials and possible additives is very important for the quality control as well as for the optimization of manufacturing processes in order to produce safe and long lasting batteries.


One of the most common types of rechargeable batteries are lithium-ion batteries. The main components of lithium-ion batteries are a cathode (positive electrode), an anode (negative electrode) and an electrolyte. The electrolyte provides a medium for the exchange of ions which produces the electricity[1]. Most Li-ion batteries have a positive electrode (cathode) made of lithium metal oxides coated onto an aluminium foil and a negative electrode (anode) consisting of carbon (e.g. graphite) coated onto a copper foil (Figure 1). 

The aluminium and the copper represent the current collectors which transfer the energy to the device (cell phone, computer, car). The lithium ions travel between the anode and the cathode through an electrolyte solution composed of a lithium salt (e.g. LiPF6) dissolved in an organic solvent (e.g. diethyl carbonate), which covers the separator membrane. The latter is responsible for prevention of internal short circuits caused by the flow of electrons inside the battery.

In a typical rechargeable lithium-ion battery (Figure 1), lithium ions move from the negative electrode to the positive electrode during discharge and in the opposite direction when charging[2].

There are different existing types of lithium ion batteries. The choice of electrode materials determines the performance and the uniqueness of the battery. 

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