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Power Tool: Investigating Battery Material with the Litesizer™

The electrodes in lithium-ions batteries are not solid structures but consist in particulate materials. Both the chemical composition and the particle size of the electrode material crucially influence battery performance. Here we investigated the particle size of carbon black, a commonly used cathode component, and of crystalline silicon, an innovative anode material. We demonstrate that the Litesizer™ is a useful tool for the quality control of battery material.

The electrodes of lithium-ion batteries consist in a mixture of active materials in particulate form. During electrode production, the raw materials are processed into slurry before being deposited onto current collectors. The electrodes’ electrochemical properties depend both on the mixing ratio of the active materials and on the particle size distribution. Optimizing the particle size of the raw materials will thus ensure that the diffusion of the lithium ions is optimal and that electrode lithiation and delithiation are rapid and constant. In addition, checking particle size is also required to investigate the possible presence of agglomerates, as these might negatively impact electrode performance. 

In this application report, we have investigated two nanomaterials used for the manufacturing of new generation lithium-ion batteries, carbon black and crystalline silicon. Carbon black is a conductive carbon powder obtained by the incomplete combustion of certain petroleum products. It is widely used as additive in the cathode to increase its electrical conductivity and optimize its performance, but is also being investigated as potential anode material. Crystalline silicon is a promising alternative to conventional anode materials, offering energy densities ten times higher than the current standards. Its commercialization is however still hampered by the fact that it is subject to large volume variations upon lithiation and delithiation.

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