We demonstrate a novel surface modification of Li- and Mn-rich cathode materials 0.33Li2MnO3·0.67LiNi0.4Co0.2Mn0.4O2 for lithium-ion batteries (high-energy Ni-Co-Mn oxides, HE-NCM) via their heat treatment with trimesic acid (TA) or terephthalic acid at 600 °C under argon. We established the optimal regimes of the treatment - the amounts of HE-NCM, acid, temperature, and time - resulting in a significant improvement of the electrochemical behavior of cathodes in Li cells. It was shown that upon treatment, some lithium is leached out from the surface, leading to the formation of a surface layer comprising rock-salt-like phase Li0.4Ni1.6O2. The analysis of the structural and surface studies by X-ray diffraction, transmission electron microscopy, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy confirmed the formation of the above surface layer. We discuss the possible reactions of HE-NCM with the acids and the mechanism of the formation of the new phases, Li0.4Ni1.6O2 and spinel. The electrochemical characterizations were performed by testing the materials versus Li anodes at 30 °C. Importantly, the electrochemical results disclose significantly improved cycling stability (much lower capacity fading) and high-rate performance for the treated materials compared to the untreated ones. We established a lower evolution of the voltage hysteresis with cycling for the treated cathodes compared to that for the untreated ones. Thermal studies by differential scanning calorimetry also demonstrated lower (by ∼32%) total heat released in the reactions of the materials treated with fluoroethylene carbonate (FEC)-dimethyl carbonate (DEC)/LiPF6 electrolyte solutions, thus implying their significant surface stabilization because of the surface treatment. It was established by a postmortem analysis after 400 cycles that a lower amount of transition-metal cations dissolved (especially Ni) and a reduced number of surface cracks were formed for the 2 wt % TA-treated HE-NCMs compared to the untreated ones. We consider the proposed method of surface modification as a simple, cheap, and scalable approach to achieve a steady and superior electrochemical performance of HE-NCM cathodes.
- Li and Mn-rich cathode materials
- heat treatment
- lithium-ion batteries
- rock-salt formation
- surface layer
- trimesic acid and terephthalic acid