Phase transformation mechanism in lithium manganese nickel oxide revealed by single-crystal hard X-ray microscopy
Understanding the reaction pathway and kinetics of solid-state phase transformation is critical in designing advanced electrode materials with better performance and stability. Despite the first-order phase transition with a large lattice mismatch between the involved phases, spinel LiMn1.5Ni0.5O4 is capable of fast rate even at large particle size, presenting an enigma yet to be understood. The present study uses advanced two-dimensional and three-dimensional nano-tomography on a series of well-formed LixMn1.5Ni0.5O4 (0≤x≤1) crystals to visualize the mesoscale phase distribution, as a function of Li content at the sub-particle level. Inhomogeneity along with the coexistence of Li-rich and Li-poor phases are broadly observed on partially delithiated crystals, providing direct evidence for a concurrent nucleation and growth process instead of a shrinking-core or a particle-by-particle process. Superior kinetics of (100) facets at the vertices of truncated octahedral particles promote preferential delithiation, whereas the observation of strain-induced cracking suggests mechanical degradation in the material.