Correlating Microstructural Lithium Metal Growth with Electrolyte Salt Depletion in Lithium Batteries Using 7Li MRI

Hee Jung Chang, Andrew J. Ilott, Nicole M. Trease, Mohaddese Mohammadi, Alexej Jerschow, Clare P. Grey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lithium dendrite growth in lithium ion and lithium rechargeable batteries is associated with severe safety concerns. To overcome these problems, a fundamental understanding of the growth mechanism of dendrites under working conditions is needed. In this work, in situ 7Li magnetic resonance (MRI) is performed on both the electrolyte and lithium metal electrodes in symmetric lithium cells, allowing the behavior of the electrolyte concentration gradient to be studied and correlated with the type and rate of microstructure growth on the Li metal electrode. For this purpose, chemical shift (CS) imaging of the metal electrodes is a particularly sensitive diagnostic method, enabling a clear distinction to be made between different types of microstructural growth occurring at the electrode surface and the eventual dendrite growth between the electrodes. The CS imaging shows that mossy types of microstructure grow close to the surface of the anode from the beginning of charge in every cell studied, while dendritic growth is triggered much later. Simple metrics have been developed to interpret the MRI data sets and to compare results from a series of cells charged at different current densities. The results show that at high charge rates, there is a strong correlation between the onset time of dendrite growth and the local depletion of the electrolyte at the surface of the electrode observed both experimentally and predicted theoretical (via the Sand's time model). A separate mechanism of dendrite growth is observed at low currents, which is not governed by salt depletion in the bulk liquid electrolyte. The MRI approach presented here allows the rate and nature of a process that occurs in the solid electrode to be correlated with the concentrations of components in the electrolyte.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15209-15216
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number48
StatePublished - Dec 9 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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