Bulk Fatigue Induced by Surface Reconstruction in Layered Ni-Rich Oxide Cathodes for Liion Batteries

Ni-rich layered cathode materials are among the most promising candidates for high energy density Li-ion batteries. However, the low cobalt containing materials suffer from rapid degradation, the underlying mechanism of which is still poorly understood. We herein report a novel structure-drive degradation mechanism for the NMC811(LiNi0.8Mn0.1Co0.1O2) cathode, in which a proportion of the material exhibits a lowered accessible state-of-charge (SoC) at the end of charge after repetitive cycling, i.e. becomes fatigued. Ex-situ and operando long- duration high-resolution X-ray diffraction enabled by a laser-thinned coin cell design clearly shows the emergence of the fatigued phase and the increase in its population as the cycling progresses. We show that the fatigue degradation is a structure-driven process rather than originating solely due to kinetic limitations or inter-granular cracking. No bulk phase transformations or increase in Li/Ni antisite mixing were observed by diffraction; no significant change in the local structure or Li-ion mobility of the bulk were observed by 7Li solid-state NMR spectroscopy. Instead, we propose that the fatigue process is a result of the high interfacial lattice strain between the reconstructed surface and the bulk layered structure when the latter is at SoCs above a distinct threshold of ~75 %. This mechanism is expected to be universal to Ni-rich layer cathodes, and our findings provide a fundamental guide for designing effective approaches to mitigate such deleterious processes.