Hydrogen determination in chemically delithiated lithium ion battery cathodes by prompt gamma activation analysis
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Lithium ion batteries, due to their relatively high energy density, are now widely used as the power source for portable electronics. Commercial lithium ion cells currently employ layered LiCoO₂ as a cathode but only 50% of its theoretical capacity can be utilized. The factors that cause the limitation are not fully established in the literature. With this perspective, prompt gamma-ray activation analysis (PGAA) has been employed to determine the hydrogen content in various oxide cathodes that have undergone chemical extraction of lithium (delithiation). The PGAA data is complemented by data obtained from atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS), redox titration, thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), and mass spectroscopy to better understand the capacity limitations and failure mechanisms of lithium ion battery cathodes. As part of this work, the PGAA facility has been redesigned and reconstructed. The neutron and gamma-ray backgrounds have been reduced by more than an order of magnitude. Detection limits for elements have also been improved. Special attention was given to the experimental setup including potential sources of error and system calibration for the detection of hydrogen. Spectral interference with hydrogen arising from cobalt was identified and corrected for. Limits of detection as a function of cobalt mass present in a given sample are also discussed. The data indicates that while delithiated layered Li[subscript 1-x]CoO₂, Li[subscript 1-x]Ni[subscript 1/3]Mn[subscript 1/3]Co[subscript 1/3]O₂, and Li[subscript 1-x]Ni[subscript 0.5]Mn[subscript 0.5]O₂ take significant amounts of hydrogen into the lattice during deep extraction, orthorhombic Li[subscript 1-x]MnO₂, spinel Li[subscript 1-x]Mn₂O₄, and olivine Li[subscript 1-x]FePO₄ do not. Layered LiCoO₂, LiNi[subscript 0.5]Mn[subscript 0.5]O₂, and LiNi[subscript 1/3]Mn[subscript 1/3]Co[subscript 1/3]O₂ have been further analyzed to assess their relative chemical instabilities while undergoing stepped chemical delithiation. Each system takes increasing amounts of protons at lower lithium contents. The differences are attributed to the relative chemical instabilities of the various cathodes that could be related to the position of the transition metal band and the top of the O²-:2p band. Chemically delithiated layered Li[Li[subscript 0.17]Mn[subscript 0.33]Co[subscript0.5-y]Ni[subscript y]]O₂ cathodes have also been characterized. The first charge and discharge capacities decrease with increasing nickel content. The decrease in the capacity with increasing nickel content is due to a decrease in the lithium content present in the transition metal layer and a consequent decrease in the amount of oxygen irreversibly lost during the first charge.