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Anisotropic swelling and fracture of silicon nanowires during lithiation

 Nano Lett. DOI: 10.1021/nl201684d

We report direct observation of an unexpected anisotropic swelling of Si nanowires during lithiation against either a solid electrolyte with a lithium counter-electrode or a liquid electrolyte with a LiCoO2 counter-electrode. Such anisotropic expansion is attributed to the interfacial processes of accommodating large volumetric strains at the lithiation reaction front that depend sensitively on the crystallographic orientation. This anisotropic swelling results in lithiated Si nanowires with a remarkable dumbbell-shaped cross-section, which develops due to plastic flow and an ensuing necking instability that is induced by the tensile hoop stress buildup in the lithiated shell. The plasticity-driven morphological instabilities often lead to fracture in lithiated nanowires, now captured in video. These results provide important insight into the battery degradation mechanisms.

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Kejie Zhao's picture

Jianyu,  very nice work!    -KJ

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