20September2019

Nano-Micro Letters

Research Progress in Improving the Rate Performance of LiFePO4 Cathode Materials

Sixu Deng1, Hao Wang1,*, Hao Liu2, Jingbing Liu1, Hui Yan1

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Nano-Micro Letters, , Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 209-226

Publication Date (Web): July 1, 2014(Review)

DOI: 10.5101/nml140023r

*Corresponding author. E-mail: haowang@bjut.edu.cn

 

Abstract

 


The crystal structure of olivine LiFePO4 in projection along [001] [17].
Olivine lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) is considered as a promising cathode material for high power-density lithium ion battery due to its high capacity, long cycle life, environmental friendly, low cost, and safety consideration. The theoretical capacity of LiFePO4 based on one electron reaction is 170 mAh g-1 at the stable voltage plateau of 3.5 V vs. Li/Li+. However, the instinct drawbacks of olivine structure induce a poor rate performance, resulting from the low lithium ion diffusion rate and low electronic conductivity. In this review, we summarize the methods for enhancing the rate performance of LiFePO4 cathode materials, including carbon coating, elements doping, preparation of nanosized materials, porous materials and composites, etc. Meanwhile, the advantages and disadvantages of above methods are also discussed.

 

Keywords

LiFePO4; Lithium ion battery; Rate performance

 

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Introduction

 

In recent years, one of the greatest challenges is to make use of renewable energies to deal with the limited oil storage and global warming threats [1]. The development of electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) is imperative. Currently, challenges remain in designing and manufacturing high safety, high performance and low cost rechargeable batteries for vehicle applications. The large scale lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) have become the prime candidate for the next generation of EVs and PHEVs because of its high operative voltage and energy density [2,3]. For LIBs, the cathode material has significantly impact on battery capacity, cycle life, safety and cost, on which a lot of attentions are drawn. Since the olivine LiFePO4 was reported by Goodenough and coworkers in 1997 [4], it has been considered as the most promising cathode candidate for the next generation large-scale LIBs used in PHEVs or EVs, because of its inherent merits including low toxicity, low material cost, flat voltage profile, long cycle ability and high safety compared to other cathode materials including LiCoO2, LiMn2O4, and Li(NiCoMn)O2 etc. [5-7]. Meanwhile, the olivine LiFePO4 exhibits reversible electrochemical lithium insertion/extraction reactions at about 3.5 V (vs. Li/Li+) with a theoretical capacity of 170 mAh g-1 [8]. However, with the deepening of the study, researchers find that the pristine LiFePO4 exhibits poor rate capacities. The low intrinsic electronic conductivity and low Li+ diffusion coefficient of LiFePO4 are the main shortcomings that limits its electrochemical performance and commercial applications of LiFePO4 [9]. At room temperature, bare LiFePO4 is an insulating with an electrical conductivity of about 10-9 to 10-10 S cm-1, which is much lower than that of LiCoO2 (about 10-3 S cm-1) and LiMn2O4 (2×10-5 to 5×10-5 S cm-1) [10-12]. Meanwhile, the intrinsic ionic diffusion coefficient is found to be as low as 10-13 (LiFePO4) to 10-16 (FePO4) cm2 s-1 depending on the Li+ concentration and the characterization method such as the electrochemical impedance spectrometry. It should be noted that the diffusion coefficient calculated is related to the state of charge and on the composition of LixFePO4[13]. Obviously, such a diffusion coefficient is also lower than that of LiCoO2 (about 5×10-9 cm2 s-1) [14]. Hence, how to overcome these drawbacks has become an important factor of study.

 

Structure of pristine LiFePO4

 

The olivine structure of LiFePO4 belongs to the family of lithium ortho-phosphates which is shown in Fig. 1. Its space group is Pnma. The lattice parameters are a = 10.33 Å, b = 6.01 Å, c = 4.69 Å and V = 291.2 Å3. The O atoms occupy a slightly distorted, hexagonal-close-packed arrangement. The P atoms are located in tetrahedral sites; and the Fe and Li atoms are located in octahedral 4a and 4c sites, respectively. A corner-shared FeO6 octahedron shares edges with two edge-shared LiO6 octahedrons and a PO4 tetrahedron. It is notable that the delithiated phase FePO4 has essentially the same structure as LiFePO4. This structural similarity not only avoids capacity degradation resulting from severe volumetric changes during the charge-discharge process, but also effectively compensates the volume changes of the carbon anode during lithiation and delithiation. This explains the excellent electrochemical cyclability of the system to some extent [15]. However, in this structure, there is only one-dimensional tunnel formed by the edge shared Li octahedra, where the Li+ are mobile in this tunnel. These one-dimensional channels are easily blocked by defects and impurities, which may hinder the ion diffusion rate of Li+, resulting in the poor ion conductivity of LiFePO4. Meanwhile, such structure cannot form a continuous FeO6 network, leading to low intrinsic electronic conductivity [16].

 

Figure 1 Caption The crystal structure of olivine LiFePO4 in projection along [001] [17].

Figure 1 The crystal structure of olivine LiFePO4 in projection along [001] [17].

 

Obviously, the low electronic and ionic conductivities seriously restrict the rate performance of LiFePO4. In recent years, various methods have been proposed to solve these problems in order to improve its performance.

 

Approaches to improve the rate performance of LiFePO4

 

Carbon coating

 

Carbon coating on the LiFePO4 particles is one of the most important techniques to improve its electrochemical performance with respect to the specific capacity, rate performance, and cycling life [18-22]. The main role of carbon coating is to increase the electronic conductivity on the surface of LiFePO4 particles [23]. Meanwhile, carbon coating reduces the particle size and alleviates to aggregation of LiFePO4 particles by inhibiting particle growth [24-27]. In addition, carbon can play the role of a reducing agent, avoiding the oxidation of Fe2+ to Fe3+ during sintering and thus simplify the atmosphere requirement during synthesis [28,29]. The beneficial effect of carbon coating has been observed varying depending on the structure, precursor, uniformity, loading and thickness of the coating [30-32]. Different carbon sources have different effects on the electrochemical properties of LiFePO4.

 

The conventional synthesis route, in which the carbon source materials are simply mixed together with LiFePO4 precursor, yields a non-uniform distribution of carbon in the final LiFePO4/C products. Recently the chemical synthesis routes are widely adopted to achieve homogeneous carbon coating around the surface of LiFePO4 particles. Nazar et al. [33] prepared LiFePO4-conductive carbon by polymerization of resorcinol-formaldehyde and then heated at 700°C for 10 h under flowing N2. The discharge capacity reached about 120 mAh g-1 at 5 C. Zhao et al. [34] synthesized core-shell LiFePO4/C composites from FePO4/C precursor. They used a chemical vapor deposition (CVD) assisted solid-state route with polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) and benzene vapor as the reducing agent and carbon source. The LiFePO4 particles were encapsulated within thin graphite shell with a thickness of 3 nm, which prevented the agglomeration of the LiFePO4 and improved the conductivity of the whole electrode materials. The composites exhibited a high specific capacity of 115 mAh g-1 at discharge rate of 5 C. However, generally the polymers are difficult to be dissolved and dispersed, which will lead to inhomogeneity in the process of carbon coating. In order to solve these problems, Wang et al. [35] prepared a LiFePO4/C composite by an in situ polymerization restriction method, formed from a highly crystalline LiFePO4 core with a size of about 20-40 nm and a uniform semi-graphitic carbon shell with a thickness of about 1-2 nm (Fig. 2). Aniline was polymerized in situ on the outer surface of the newly generated FePO4 precipitate to form a green polyaniline shell that can effectively restrict the growth of the FePO4 particles. The unique structure combined with its full coating of conductive carbon, effectively enhanced the electrochemical performance of LiFePO4. The as-prepared LiFePO4/C composite delivered a capacity of 90 mAh g-1 at the rate of about 60 C.

 

Figure 2 Caption (a) Electron-transfer pathway for LiFePO4 particles partially coated with carbon. (b) Designed ideal structure for LiFePO4 particles with typical nano-size and a complete carbon coating. (c) Preparation process for the LiFePO4/carbon composite including an in situ polymerization reaction and two typical restriction processes [35].

Figure 2 TEM image of LiMPO4/C nanocomposites obtained by the MW-HT process after heat-treatment at 700°C for 1 h: (a) TEM image of LiFePO4/C, (b) HRTEM image of LiFePO4/C [39].

 

In addition to using polymer, various sugar and organic carboxylic acids are also adopted as the carbon precursor. A LiFePO4/C composite synthesized by adding sugar before the heating steps was reported by Dahn et al. [36]. The particles of LiFePO4/C were of uniform size and well coated by carbon. These characteristics apparently assured LiFePO4/C of a good rate capability. The capacity of LiFePO4/C showed 125 mAh g-1 even at 5 C discharge rate. Zhang et al. [37] reported a LiFePO4/C composite cathode synthesized via a mechanochemical activation/sintering process by adopting citric acid as the carbon source. The formation of carbon consisted of two processes i.e. pyrolysis of carbon precursor to CHx and subsequent formation of carbon. Compared with different carbon contents, the cathode with 6.0 wt% citric acid showed the highest initial rate discharge capacities of 92 mAh g-1 at 20 C. Manthiram et al. [38] synthesized highly crystalline LiFePO4 nanorods via a rapid microwave-assisted solvothermal approach employing tetraethyleneglycol as the solvent. Then they adopted an ex situ coating of carbon by heating the nanostructured LiFePO4 with sucrose in 2% H2-98% Ar at 700°C for 1 h. The as-prepared LiFePO4/C possessed excellent rate capability of 110 mAh g-1 at discharge rate of 10 C, which could be attributed to the formation of highly crystallized sp2 carbon. Manthiram’s group also presented a one-pot microwave-assisted hydrothermal method to synthesize carbon-coated LiFePO4 with a more uniform particle size (220-225 nm). The carbon coating was uniform and found to be 5-12 nm in thickness, which uniformly cover the surface of LiFePO4 (Fig. 3). The composite exhibited high capacity with excellent cyclability and rate capability, which reached at 110 mAh g-1 at discharge rate of 10 C [39].

 

Figure 3 Caption TEM image of LiMPO4/C nanocomposites obtained by the MW-HT process after heat-treatment at 700°C for 1 h: (a) TEM image of LiFePO4/C, (b) HRTEM image of LiFePO4/C [39].

Figure 3 TEM image of LiMPO4/C nanocomposites obtained by the MW-HT process after heat-treatment at 700°C for 1 h: (a) TEM image of LiFePO4/C, (b) HRTEM image of LiFePO4/C [39].

 

Other carbon sources are also studied. Sides et al. [40] reported a new type of template-prepared nanostructured LiFePO4 electrode. This electrode consisted of uniformly dispersed nanofibers of the LiFePO4 electrode material mixed in an electronically conductive carbon matrix. Because of this unique nanocomposite morphology, these electrodes delivered high capacity of 150 mA h g-1 at a rate of 5 C. Meanwhile, even at rates exceeding 50 C, these electrodes still maintained a substantial fraction of the theoretical capacity. Due to the conductive carbon matrix, this new nanocomposite electrode solved the problem of the inherently poor electronic conductivity of LiFePO4.

 

So far, the application of carbon coating on the LiFePO4 particle surface by various strategies is the most effective way to increase the conductivity of LiFePO4. However, some authors find that carbon coating still have some disadvantages, including reduced tap density and high production costs, which may cause low energy density and high energy cost of the battery [41]. Meanwhile, the high rate capacity and cycling stability of LiFePO4/C materials are still dissatisfactory [42].

 

Doping

 

Carbon coating is an efficient way to enhance the conductivity between particles [33,36,43]. However, this method obviously has little effect on the chemical diffusion coefficient or lattice electronic conductivity of lithium within the LiFePO4 crystal [44]. The doping of heterogeneous ions, at either cation (Li+ and Fe2+) or anion (O2−) sites of LiFePO4, can greatly improve the intrinsic electronic conductivity of materials in terms of capacity delivery, cycle life, and rate capability [45-48].

 

Li site doping

 

Many studies have demonstrated that Li-site doping can cause LiFePO4 lattice defects, which is conducive to the proliferation of Li-ion [9]. The Li-site doping with supervalent cations was inspired by Chung et al. [10]. They prepared Li1-xMxFePO4 samples by the solid-state reaction, with the dopant (M = Mg2+, Al3+, Ti4+, Zr4+, Nb5+ or W6+) being added as a metal alkoxide. It suggested that, using supervalent cations to replace the Li-site, lead to the co-existence of Fe2+/Fe3+ mixed valent phases. LiFePO4 was charged and discharged in structure between p-type phase and n-type phase according to the variation of Fe2+/Fe3+ proportion. Li0.99M0.01FePO4 showed electrical conductivity at room temperature that was a factor of ~108 greater than undoped LiFePO4, and absolute values >10–3 S cm–1 over the temperature range of –20°C to +150°C, which was shown in Fig. 4. As shown in Fig. 4, the doped electrode materials exhibited well rate performance, with discharge capacities over 60 mAh g-1 at 21.5 C rate.

 

However, the mechanism and effect of supervalent cation doping on electronic conductivity reported so far are still in controversy. Herle et al. [49] examined the LixZr0.01FePO4 (x = 0.87 to 0.99) and found that percolating “nano-networks” of metal-rich phosphides within the grain boundaries of LiFePO4 crystallites were responsible for the enhanced electronic conductivity. Delacourt et al. [50] were unsuccessful in Nb doping of LiFePO4, instead, they formed crystalline b-NbOPO4 and/or an amorphous (Nb, Fe, C, O, P) ‘cobweb’ around LiFePO4 particles, which was responsible for superior electrochemical activity. The electronic conductivity of pure LiFePO4 and LiFePO4/b-NbPO4 composites is ∼10-9 S cm-1 while that of Nb-and/or C-containing LiFePO4 composites increase up to 1.6×10-1 S cm-1. The first principle calculations by Ouyang et al. [51] showed that Li diffusion in olivine LiFePO4 was one dimensional, thus even though the Li-site doping could enhance the electronic conductivity, it did not improve the electrochemical performance for LiFePO4 as cathode material. As the high valence heavy metal ions in the Li sites will block the one-dimensional diffusion pathways, the ionic conductivity is decreased, which is certainly harmful to the battery performance. An atomic-scale simulation by Islam et al. [16] suggested that, low favorable energies were found only for divalent dopants on the Fe site (such as Mg and Mn), and on energetic grounds, LiFePO4 was not tolerant to aliovalent doping (e.g., Al, Ga, Zr, Ti, Nb, Ta) on either Li or Fe sites.

 

Figure 4 Caption The electrical conductivity of doped olivines of stoichiometry Li1-xMxFePO4 at room temperature [10].

Figure 4 The electrical conductivity of doped olivines of stoichiometry Li1-xMxFePO4 at room temperature [10].

 

Fe site doping

 

Similar to Li-site doping, Fe-site doping can also improve the electrochemical performance of LiFePO4 by causing lattice defects [52,53]. Wang et al. [54] reported Fe-site doped LiFe0.9M0.1PO4 (M = Ni, Co, Mg) cathode materials with good rate performance and cyclic stability by solid-state reactions. The capacities of LiFe0.9M0.1PO4 (M = Ni, Co, Mg) maintained at 81.7, 90.4 and 88.7 mAh g-1 under 10 C rate, respectively, in comparison with 53.7 mAh g-1 and 54.8 mAh g-1 for non-doped and carbon-coated LiFePO4, respectively. Such a significant improvement in electrochemical performance should be partially related to the enhanced electronic conductivities (from 2.2×10−9 to 2.×10−7 S cm−1) and Li+ ions mobility in the doped samples. The Cr-doped LiFePO4/C was synthesized by a mechanochemical process with the employment of planetary ball milling followed by a one-step heat treatment [55]. The LiFe0.97Cr0.03PO4/C showed excellent rate performance, delivering a discharge capacity up to 120 mAh g-1 at 10 C. The synchrotron-based in situ X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis indicated that Cr doping facilitated the phase transformation between triphylite and heterosite during cycling and thus improved the rate performances of LiFePO4/C. Sun et al. [56] reported V-doped LiFePO4/C cathode materials using a carbothermal reduction route. The V-doped LiFePO4/C showed a high discharge capacity of ∼70 mAh g−1 at the rate of 20 C. This was attributed to the optimization of the morphology and the crystal microstructure by V-doping, which facilitates the Li+ ion diffusion.

 

O site doping

 

Besides cation doping, anion doping is also expected as an effective way to enhance the electronic conductivity of LiFePO4. Some researches select Cl and F as the substitution for O2− anion [57]. Lu et al. [58] reported the F-doped LiFePO4/C nanoparticles synthesized through a low-temperature hydrothermal reaction followed by a high-temperature treatment. The discharge capacities at different rates were 120.4 (5 C), 101.3 (10 C) and 90.5 (15 C) mAh g-1, respectively. The cyclic voltammetry (CV) and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) were used to investigate the influence of F doping on the electronic conductivity of LiFePO4 as shown in Fig. 5.

 

XRD, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) analyses indicated that F-doping did not alter the crystal structure of LiFePO4 phase. F-doping could improve the electric conductivity of LiFePO4 cathode materials, which is considered beneficial to the Li+ diffusion between LiFePO4 phase and FePO4 phase. The improved Li+ ion diffusion could be attributed to the weakening of Li-O bonds resulting from introduction of F into the lattice of olivine structure. Cl-doped LiFePO4/C cathode materials were synthesized via a carbothermal reduction route by Sun et al. [59]. The Cl-doped LiFePO4/C cathode materials presented a high discharge capacity of ∼90 mAh g−1 at the rate of 20 C. The results indicated that the optimized electrochemical reaction and Li+ diffusion in the bulk of LiFePO4 due to Cl-doping. The improved Li+ diffusion capability was attributed to the microstructure modification of LiFePO4 via Cl-doping.

 

Figure 5 Caption The CV curves (a) and EIS (b) of un-doped and F-doped LiFePO4/C samples [58].

Figure 5 The CV curves (a) and EIS (b) of un-doped and F-doped LiFePO4/C samples [58].

 

Preparation of nanosized materials

 

Carbon coating and elements doping are efficient way to increase the electronic conductivity of LiFePO4 electrode materials [60-62]. However, both carbon coating and doping do not solve the problem of the low intrinsic ionic conductivity of LiFePO4 which could be addressed by downsizing the particles. Obviously, decreasing the particle size, which leads to a decrease in solid state transport length and increase in surface reactivity, has been the main method to solve above problem [17]. In addition, Lee et al. [63] studied the lithiation/delithiation mechanism for the general case of nanoparticles with a heterogeneous particle size distribution (Fig. 6). They proofed that ionic transport occurs between nano and bulk particles in a cell at equilibrium, due to their electrochemical potential difference that originates from their different thermodynamic properties and surface energies. Based on the careful analysis of the results reported by different research groups, Gaberscek et al. [64] showed the relationship between the average particle size and the electrochemical performance of LiFePO4-based electrodes. electrochemical performanceelectrochemical performanceelectrochemical performanceThey pointed out that the electrical resistance of electrode materials depended solely on the mean particle size, as shown in the Fig. 7(a). Meanwhile, the discharge capacity of LiFePO4-based electrodes dropped approximately linearly with average particle size, regardless of the presence/absence of a native carbon coating, which was shown in Fig. 7(b).

 

Figure 6 Caption The relationship between thermodynamics and particle size: (a) Nano-LiFePO4; (b) Bulk-LiFePO4 [63].

Figure 6 The relationship between thermodynamics and particle size: (a) Nano-LiFePO4; (b) Bulk-LiFePO4 [63].

 

Figure 7 Caption The relationship between average particle diameter and electrode resistance per unit mass (a); discharge capacity (b) [64].

Figure 7 The relationship between average particle diameter and electrode resistance per unit mass (a); discharge capacity (b) [64].

 

Delacourt et al. [65] prepared carbon-free LiFePO4 crystalline powders by a direct precipitation method. The particle size distribution is very narrow, centered on about 140 nm. A soft thermal treatment, typically at 500 °C for 3 h under slight reducing conditions (N2/H2 gas flow) was shown to be necessary to obtain satisfactory electrochemical Li+ deinsertion/insertion properties. This thermal treatment does not lead to grain growth or sintering of the particles, and does not alter the surface of the particles. The powders exhibited excellent electrochemical performances of about 147 mAh g−1 at a rate of 5 C. Gibot et al. [66] reported a single phase carbon-free LiFePO4 nanoparticles by a low-temperature precipitation process. They reported the feasibility to drive the well-established two-phase room-temperature insertion process in LiFePO4 electrodes into a single-phase one by modifying the material’s particle size and ion ordering. Electrodes made of LiFePO4 nanoparticles (40 nm) exhibited excellent reversible performance and the capacity sustained near 100% after 60 cycles both at 0.1 C and 1 C, which were shown in Fig. 8. Lim et al. [67] synthesized nanowires and hollow carbon-free LiFePO4 cathodes using the hard templates SBA-15 and KIT-6, respectively. The nanowires had a diameter of about 7 nm, and the hollow LiFePO4 had a pore size of 5.6 nm. Both the nanowires and hollow LiFePO4 cathodes exhibited excellent rate capability even at 10 C, with over 89% capacity retention of the initial capacity. The rate capability of the hollow cathode was higher than that of the nanowire cathode due to its higher surface area.

 

Figure 8 Caption (a-b) SEM image and HRTEM image combined with the Fourier transform of the selected area showing the orientation of the crystallite of the 40 nm nanosized LiFePO4; (c) Charge/discharge galvanostatic curves at 0.1 C and 1 C for a Li/carbon-free 40 nm LiFePO4 cell cycled between 2.5 and 4 V, together with its capacity retention over 60 cycles [66].

Figure 8 (a-b) SEM image and HRTEM image combined with the Fourier transform of the selected area showing the orientation of the crystallite of the 40 nm nanosized LiFePO4; (c) Charge/discharge galvanostatic curves at 0.1 C and 1 C for a Li/carbon-free 40 nm LiFePO4 cell cycled between 2.5 and 4 V, together with its capacity retention over 60 cycles [66].

 

Of course, we recognized that the morphology and crystal orientation of LiFePO4 related to the ionic kinetics is also significantly affecting its electrochemical performance in the nanosized electrode materials [68,69]. Wang’s group [70] synthesized 3D hierarchical LiFePO4 particles networked with electronically conducting multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) including particle-like nanoparticles, shuttle-like nanoparticles and disk-like nanoparticles by a hydrothermal approach. The particle morphology, crystal orientation, and electrochemical reactivity of the prepared LiFePO4/MWCNT particles could be tailored by varying the P source. Among the as-prepared LiFePO4 materials, the disk-like crystal showed the most excellent performance, with the capacity reaching 121.5 mAh g-1 at 30 C. Saravanan et al. [71] reported LiFePO4 nanoplates with a uniform amorphous carbon coating of 5 nm surface by the solvothermal method. The thickness of the nanoplates along the b-axis was found to be 30-40 nm. The LiFePO4/C nanoplates delivered the initial discharge capacity of about 165 mAh g-1 at 0.1 C and about 50 mAh g-1 at 30 C. Lee et al. reported on the evolution of a hollow sphere secondary structure of spherical nanoparticles by a solubilization-reprecipitation mechanism based on the difference of solubility products (Ksp) of two different precipitates [72]. Carbon-coated nanoparticles of olivine structure LiFePO4 served as the primary nano-blocks to build the secondary nano-architecture (Fig. 9). The size of the secondary particles was about 300 nm, which was developed in a shape of hollow sphere with its shell consisting of the primary particles (about 25 nm). The carbon layer wrapping primary particles was clearly shown with the thickness of 3 to 5 nm. By controlling the morphology of the electrode materials, the hollow LiFePO4 spheres showed good rate performances. The high rates charging were achieved 133 mAh g-1 at 10 C and 100 mAh g-1 at 50 C.

 

Figure 9 Caption Electron microscopy images of the hollow sphere secondary structure of nanoparticles [72].

Figure 9 Electron microscopy images of the hollow sphere secondary structure of nanoparticles [72].

 

Decreasing the particle size to increase the electrode-electrolyte interface is the most effective method to enhance electrochemical performances of LiFePO4, particularly at high rate charge-discharge. Unfortunately, because of the surface lattice relaxation and self-aggregation, nano-sized LiFePO4 usually exhibit low capacitance retention and low tap density or volumetric energy density. Meanwhile, there are also some problems existed in large-scale production, separation and admixing with carbon black [9].

 

Preparation of porous materials

 

In order to introduce fast ionic permeation and high electronic conductivity into the Li-ion battery materials, new concepts of electrode structuring are needed [73]. Recently, the porous LiFePO4 material has attracted comprehensive researchs. In a porous material, the pore-to-pore distance determines the solid-state diffusion of Li+. Apparently, this distance has a similar value as the average diameter of nano-particles in particulate materials [74]. While, porous LiFePO4 particles provide good contact with electrolyte and, in principle, are easier to bind than isolated nano-sized LiFePO4 particles [75]. Meanwhile, such porous structure is more useful if the pores are decorated with an electronic conductor, especially with a thin carbon film [76]. Solid electron-conducting carbon will be homogeneously distributed within the final composite materials [77].

 

Dominko et al. [78] prepared microsized porous LiFePO4/C particles by sol-gel techniques, using Fe(III) citrate as a precursor. The particles internal porosity in the range of 4-200 nm was controlled by appropriate selection of several synthesis parameters. Within this sol-gel technique the increase in heating rate lead to a more interlaced pore system, a smaller mesoporous volume, and a larger number of surface apertures, although the micropore volume did not change significantly. These features resulted in a better electrochemical rate performance of 120 mAh g-1 at 5 C rate. Doherty et al. [79] used a novel method to prepare nanostructured hierarchically porous LiFePO4 electrode materials. A meso/macroporous carbon monolith with bimodal porosity was nanocasted from a hard silica template, which was used to provide a conductive framework for LiFePO4 and increase the electrode/electrolyte interface. The surface area of the sample detected by Brunauer-Emmet-Teller (BET) was 200 m2 g-1 with a pore volume of 0.3 cm3 g-1. This type of structure was potentially ideal as electrode materials to improve the rate capability of the batteries. The as-prepared sample displayed a capacity of 100 mAh g-1 at discharge rate of 5 C. Drummond et al. [80] reported a hierarchically porous LiFePO4 electrode materials via a colloidal crystal templates technique. Beads of polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) were synthesized with diameters of 100, 140, and 270 nm and used to form colloidal crystal templates to produce LiFePO4, which featured pores spanning from 10 to 100 nm (Fig. 10). The materials with the largest pores, around 100 nm diameters, presented the highest discharge capacities of 160 mAh g-1 at 0.1 C and 115 mAh g-1 at 5 C. Sinha et al. [81] achieved a mesoporous LiFePO4/C composite with dual porosity by a solution-based polymer templating technique. Pluronic acid was used as the templating agent in the presence of a cosurfactant in an emulsion medium. The LiFePO4/C composite prepared at 700°C contains dual porosity with pore-size distributions spread around 4 and 50 nm, which exhibited a high rate capability and stable capacity retention upon cycling. It delivered 60 mAh g-1 reversible capacities even at a current rate of 14.7 C.

 

Figure 10 Caption (a) TEM image of 140 nm bead-templated LiFePO4 calcined at 320C and (b) calcined at 600C. (c) SEM image of 270 nm bead-templated LiFePO4 calcined at 700C [80].

Figure 10 (a) TEM image of 140 nm bead-templated LiFePO4 calcined at 320C and (b) calcined at 600C. (c) SEM image of 270 nm bead-templated LiFePO4 calcined at 700°C [80].

 

Template-free techniques have also been developed to prepare porous LiFePO4 cathode materials. Yu et al. [82] prepared porous micro-spherical aggregates of LiFePO4/C nanocomposites via a sol-gel-spray drying method without employing any surfactants or templates. The as-obtained LiFePO4 porous microspheres had an average pore size of 45 nm and gave large specific surface area (20.2 m2 g−1). The particles could be easy to bring into contact with electrolyte, facilitate the electron and lithium ion diffusion. The as-obtained sample delivered a large reversible discharge capacity of 138 mAh g-1 at 0.1 C and a good rate capacity of 54 mAh g-1 at 10 C (Fig. 11). Qian et al. [83] suggested that the ideal structure of LiFePO4 with both high volumetric energy density and high rate capability should be a microsphere composed of nanocrystallites tightly compacted to form three-dimensional electronic and ionic channels. They prepared nanoembossed mesoporous LiFePO4 microspheres by a template-free hydrothermal process. The microspheres showed a uniform size distribution of ∼3 μm and were composed of many densely aggregated ∼100 nm nanoparticles and interconnected nanochannels. This mesoporous structure allowed better irrigation of electrolyte, and therefore provided a huge electrochemically available surface for enhancing the rate capability of the lithium insertion/deinsertion reaction. The discharge capability of LiFePO4 microspheres reached 115 mAh g-1 at a high rate of 10 C. Recently, we adopted the supercritical carbon dioxide (scCO2) to modify the size and morphology of hydrothermally synthesized LiFePO4 [84]. After the scCO2 treatment, aggregation was largely reduced, different morphologies were obtained and impurities were almost removed. The effects of the formation of porous LiFePO4 had also been found after the scCO2 treatment. Meanwhile, a possible crystal dissolution formation mechanism was proposed from theoretical models [85]. The electrochemical performance of porous LiFePO4 had been significantly improved. At the discharge rate of 5 C, the discharge capacity was 105 mAh g-1 [86].

 

Figure 11 Caption (a) Description of process from slurry droplet to porous micro-spherical aggregates of LiFePO4/C nanocomposites during spray drying and subsequently carbothermal reaction; (b) the cyclic stability of the as-obtained product LFP with various discharge current rates [82].

Figure 11 (a) Description of process from slurry droplet to porous micro-spherical aggregates of LiFePO4/C nanocomposites during spray drying and subsequently carbothermal reaction; (b) the cyclic stability of the as-obtained product LFP with various discharge current rates [82].

 

The porous structure could be depicted as an inverse picture of nanoparticles arrangement, where pores serve as paths for Li-ion supply and the distance between the pores determines the materials kinetics [87]. The porous structure is also the critical factor for affecting high power capability of LiFePO4, so optimization of the porous structure by controlling synthesis methods and technological conditions is the key step to improve electrochemical properties of LiFePO4 at high rates [88].

 

Preparation of composites

 

As a kind of carbon materials, graphene has attracted attention in increasing the electrochemical performance of LiFePO4 because of its large specific surface area (theoretical value of 2630 m2 g-1), flexible structure, superior chemical/thermal stability, and most importantly excellent electric conductivity [89-94]. With the help of graphene, the electrons could be transferred easily between the LiFePO4 particles and current collectors, reducing the internal resistance and enhancing the power density of the batteries [95,96].

 

Zhou et al. [97] described a graphene-modified LiFePO4 composite for a Li-ion battery cathode material. The composite was prepared with LiFePO4 nanoparticles and the relatively simple availability of graphene oxide nanosheets using spray-drying and annealing processes. The LiFePO4 primary nanoparticles embedded in micro-sized spherical secondary particles with diameters of 2-5 μm were wrapped homogeneously and loosely with a graphene 3D network. The carbon film had a thickness of about 2 nm and consisted of 3-5 layers of graphene, which was shown in Fig. 12. Such structure supported the maximum fulfilment of graphene’s functionality, because electrons were easily transferred between the surface of LiFePO4 nanocrystals and graphene, and moved unobstructed over the nanoparticles to attain a high rate capability. The composite delivered a capacity of 70 mAh g-1 at 60 C discharge rate and showed a capacity decay rate of 15% when cycled under 10 C charging and 20 C discharging fr 1000 times. Su et al. [98] reported a novel LiFePO4/graphene/carbon composite by an in situ solvothermal method to synthesize LiFePO4/graphene powders as precursors and then followed by a carbon-coating process. The ethanol adopted in the experiment acted as a reducing agent, which was used to avoid the formation of undesirable ferric impurities in the solvothermal [99]. The results indicated that the co-modification of LiFePO4 with graphene and carbon coating could construct an effective conducting network, which significantly enhanced the electrochemical activity of LiFePO4/carbon based composite. The composite with a low content of graphene exhibited a high initial discharge capacity of 163.7 mAh g−1 at 0.1 C and 114 mAh g−1 at 5 C, as well as an excellent cycling stability. Ha et al. [100] mixed chemically activated graphene (CA-graphene) with LiFePO4 to prepare the composite for lithium ion batteries. CA-graphene in the composite provided abundant porous channels for the diffusion of lithium ions. Moreover, it acted as a conducting network for easy charge transfer and as a divider, preventing the aggregation of LiFePO4 particles. The CA-graphene/LiFePO4 composite exhibited remarkably better rate capability and stable cycling performance compared to the conventional graphene/LiFePO4 composite and bare LiFePO4. The as-obtained sample delivered 73 mAh g-1 of discharge capacity at 25 C. Shi and co-workers [101] described an advanced microwave-assisted hydrothermal route for preparation of a highly ordered LiFePO4/C/graphene nano-composite. LiFePO4/C nanoparticles were embedded in the conductive and interconnected graphene networks, and exhibited a discharge capacity of 88 mAh g-1 at 10 C.

 

Figure 12 Caption (a-f) SEM and TEM images of the LFP/G particles; (g) Comparison of rate capability of LFP/G, LFP/C, and LFP/(G + C) [97].

Figure 12 (a-f) SEM and TEM images of the LFP/G particles; (g) Comparison of rate capability of LFP/G, LFP/C, and LFP/(G + C) [97].

 

On the other hand, in order to improve the lithium ion diffusion of the electrode materials, the modified graphene with 3D conducting matrix are developed to grow and anchor on the insulating LiFePO4 materials [102,103]. Sun et al. [104] successfully prepared a three-dimensional porous self-assembled LiFePO4/graphene (LFP/G) composite using a facile template-free sol-gel approach. Graphene nanosheets were dispersed into the porous hierarchical network homogenously, which greatly enhanced the efficient use of the active materials, leading to an outstanding electrochemical performance of the hybrid cathodes. The LFP/G composite had a reversible capacity of 65 mAh g-1 at 5 C rate. One year later, Sun’s group [105] reported that the unfolded graphene was used as a three dimensional (3D) conducting network for LiFePO4 nano-particle growth (Fig. 13). The use of unfolded graphene improved the dispersion of LiFePO4 and restricted the LiFePO4 particle size at the nanoscale. Meanwhile, it enabled both Li-ion and electrons to migrate and sufficiently utilized the LiFePO4 active materials. This facile designed composite showed both high specific capacity and rate performances. The discharge capacity of the nanocomposite remained stable at relatively high rate (75 mAh g-1 at 10 C and 60 mAh g-1 at 15 C, respectively).

 

Figure 13 Caption SEM and TEM (inset) images of LiFePO4-unfolded graphene nanocomposites obtained with different annealing time: (a) 2 h; (b) 6 h; (c) 12 h and (d) 24 h. (e) Schematic image of LiFePO4 growth on the unfolded graphene [105].

Figure 13 SEM and TEM (inset) images of LiFePO4-unfolded graphene nanocomposites obtained with different annealing time: (a) 2 h; (b) 6 h; (c) 12 h and (d) 24 h. (e) Schematic image of LiFePO4 growth on the unfolded graphene [105].

 

Carbon nanotubes, with high electrical conductivity, large surface area and high aspect ratio, are also considered as the promising materials to form high electrical conductivity and enhance the ion transport for LiFePO4 [106,107]. Sun and his colleagues [108] synthesized 3D nitrogen-doped CNTs modified porous LiFePO4 by a sol-gel method without templates or surfactants. Nitrogen doped CNTs possessed many active defects and hydrophilic properties, which brought to intimate contact with active materials. Meanwhile, in nitrogen doped CNTs, nitrogen atom provided electron carriers for the conduction band, which further improved the electronic conductivity [109-111]. The as-prepared LiFePO4/nitrogen-doped CNTs exhibited excellent rate performance of 80 mAh g-1 at the rate of 5 C. Toprakci et al. [112] reported that the LiFePO4/CNT/C composite nanofibers were synthesized via a combination of electrospinning and sol-gel methods, where polyacrylonitrile (PAN) was used as the electrospinning media and carbon source. Electrospinning was an effective way to minimize the aggregation of LiFePO4 particles and promote the formation of a conducting carbonaceous layer. CNTs were found to be well-dispersed in the carbonaceous matrix and increased the electrochemical performance of the composite nanofibers. The average reversible capacities of the above composites were obtained as 134 mAh g-1 and 121 mAh g-1 at 1 C and 2 C, respectively. Zhou et al. [113] prepared the highly-conductive 3D nanotube networks combined with interlaced porous LiFePO4 electrodes by an in situ sol-gel technique. This design developed the manifold benefits of CNTs to create a highly-conductive 3D network united with the porous LiFePO4. At high rate of 6 C, the composite material retained a capacity of 110 mAh g-1.

 

From the above papers we can see that the composites electrode materials are believed to be one of the most promising cathode materials for lithium ion batteries.

 

Others

 

During the synthesis process of LiFePO4 material, some conductive impurities and amorphous phases may be produced [114]. These metal impurities play an important role in increasing electronic conductivity and evidently improving the electrochemical performance. Xu et al. [115] prepared LiFePO4/C materials by a reformative solid-coordination method. Fe2P phase arised as an impure phase among the LiFePO4/C materials when they were prepared at relatively high annealing temperature of 725°C. The discharge capacity of the above sample was 10% higher than the pristine LiFePO4. Kang and Ceder [116] created a fast ion-conducting surface phase of Li4P2O7 through controlled off-stoichiometry. The as-prepared LiFePO4 exhibited excellent rate performance of 136 mAh g-1 and 60 mAh g-1 at 50 C and 400 C, respectively. However, Goodenough et al. doubted that the announced battery was impossible to reach high recharging rate capability for a Li-ion battery of 9 s, although the authors responded to the unsupported claims of ultrafast charging of Li-ion batteries [117,118]. This debate is not yet clear.

 

Conclusions

 

The olivine LiFePO4 has been considered as the most promising cathode materials for EVs and PHEVs applications due to its inherent merits including low toxicity, low material cost, flat voltage profile, long cycle ability and high safety compared to other cathode materials. However, LiFePO4 has severe disadvantages of low intrinsic electronic conductivity of LiFePO4 and small diffusion coefficient of lithium ion, which are the main demerits that make it difficult to be applied in high-rate battery. In this paper, we have reviewed some of the recent progress and advances in improving the rate performance of LiFePO4 from peer-reviewed journal publications. Carbon coating on the LiFePO4 particle surface is one of the most important techniques used to improve its electronic conductivity between particles. Doping with cations and anions can greatly improves the intrinsic electronic conductivity of materials, although the mechanism and effect of doping on electronic conductivity reported are still in controversy. Both carbon coating and doping do not solve the problem of the low intrinsic ionic conductivity of LiFePO4, which could be addressed by downsizing the particles. In order to introduce fast ionic permeation and high electronic conductivity into the Li-ion battery materials, porous structure and the composites electrode materials are depicted to improve the high rate electrochemical properties of LiFePO4. With regard to the large-scale industrial production, a reliable, low-cost, highly effective synthetic method for preparing LiFePO4 cathode materials with high rate performance is still highly desirable. With comprehensive research, we believe that LiFePO4 will be widely used for the Li-ion battery and practical application of EVs.

 

Acknowledgments

 

This work was supported by the Foundation on the Creative Research Team Construction Promotion Project of Beijing Municipal Institutions.

 

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Foundation on the Creative Research Team Construction Promotion Project of Beijing Municipal Institutions.

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Citation Information

Sixu Deng, Hao Wang, Hao Liu, Jingbing Liu and Hui Yan, Research Progress in Improving the Rate Performance of LiFePO 4 Cathode Materials. Nano-Micro Lett. 6(3), 209-226 (2014). http://dx.doi.org/10.5101/nml140023r

 

History

Received 16 January 2014; accepted 04 March 2014; published online July 1, 2014

 


Additional Info

  • Type of Publishing: JOUR - Journal
  • Title:

    Research Progress in Improving the Rate Performance of LiFePO4 Cathode Materials

  • Author: Sixu Deng, Hao Wang, Hao Liu, Jingbing Liu, Hui Yan
  • Year: 2014
  • Volume: 6
  • Issue: 3
  • Journal Name: Nano-Micro Letters
  • Publisher: OPEN ACCESS HOUSE SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
  • ISSN: 2150-5551
  • URL: http://www.nmletters.org/volume-6/volume-6-issue-3/item/331-research-progress-in-improving-the-rate-performance-of-lifepo4-cathode-materials
  • Abstract:

    Olivine lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) is considered as a promising cathode material for high power-density lithium ion battery due to its high capacity, long cycle life, environmental friendly, low cost, and safety consideration. The theoretical capacity of LiFePO4 based on one electron reaction is 170 mAh g-1 at the stable voltage plateau of 3.5 V vs. Li/Li+. However, the instinct drawbacks of olivine structure induce a poor rate performance, resulting from the low lithium ion diffusion rate and low electronic conductivity. In this review, we summarize the methods for enhancing the rate performance of LiFePO4 cathode materials, including carbon coating, elements doping, preparation of nanosized materials, porous materials and composites, etc. Meanwhile, the advantages and disadvantages of above methods are also discussed.

  • Publish Date: Tuesday, 01 July 2014
  • Start Page: 209
  • Endpage: 226
  • DOI: 10.5101/nml140023r