Mechanical degradation and resultant capacity fade in high-capacity electrode materials critically hinder their use in high-performance rechargeable batteries. Despite tremendous efforts devoted to the study of the electro-chemo-mechanical behaviours of high-capacity electrode materials, their fracture properties and mechanisms remain largely unknown. Here we report a nanomechanical study on the damage tolerance of electrochemically lithiated silicon. Our in situ transmission electron microscopy experiments reveal a striking contrast of brittle fracture in pristine silicon versus ductile tensile deformation in fully lithiated silicon. Quantitative fracture toughness measurements by nanoindentation show a rapid brittle-to-ductile transition of fracture as the lithium-to-silicon molar ratio is increased to above 1.5. Molecular dynamics simulations elucidate the mechanistic underpinnings of the brittle-to-ductile transition governed by atomic bonding and lithiation-induced toughening. Our results reveal the high damage tolerance in amorphous lithium-rich silicon alloys and have important implications for the development of durable rechargeable batteries.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)