Computer Modelling Studies of New Electrode Materials for Rechargeable Batteries

  • Stephen Wood

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Developing a sustainable energy infrastructure for the 21st century requires the large scale development of renewable energy resources. Fully exploiting these inherently intermittent supplies will require advanced energy storage technologies, with rechargeable Li-ion and Na-ion batteries considered highly promising for both vehicle electrification and grid storage applications. However, the performance required of battery materials has not been achieved, and significant improvements are needed. Modern computational techniques allow the elucidation of structure-property relationships at the atomic level and are valuable tools in providing fundamental insights into novel materials. Therefore, in this thesis a combination of atomistic simulation and ab initio density functional theory (DFT) techniques have been used to study a number of potential battery cathode materials.Firstly, Na2FePO4F and NaFePO4 are interesting materials that have been reported recently as attractive positive electrodes for Na-ion batteries. Here, we report their Na-ion conduction behaviour and intrinsic defect properties using atomistic simulation methods. Na+ ion conduction in Na2FePO4F is predicted to be two-dimensional (2D) in the interlayer plane. Na ion migration in NaFePO4 is restricted to the [010] direction along a curved trajectory, leading to quasi-1D Na+ diffusion. Furthermore, Na/Fe antisite defects are predicted to have a lower formation energy in NaFePO4 than Na2FePO4F. The higher probability of tunnel occupation with a relatively immobile Fe2+ cation - along with a greater volume change on redox cycling - contributes to the poor electrochemical performance of NaFePO4.Secondly, work on the Na2FePO4F system is extended to include investigation of the surface structures and energetics. The equilibrium morphology is found to be essentially octagonal, compressed slightly along the [010] direction, and is dominated by the (010), (021), (122) and (110) surfaces. The calculated growth morphology is a more ``rod-like'' nanoparticle, with the (021), (023), (110) and (112) planes predominant. The (010) surface lies parallel to the Na layers in the ac plane and is unlikely to facilitate Na+ intercalation. As such, its prominence in the equilibrium morphology, and absence from the growth morphology, suggests nanoparticles synthesised in a kinetically limited regime should provide higher rate performance than those synthesised in close to equilibrium conditions. Surface redox potentials for Na2FePO4F derived using DFT vary between 2.76 - 3.37 V, in comparison to a calculated bulk cell voltage of 2.91 V. Most significantly, the lowest energy potentials are found for the (130) and (001) planes suggesting that upon charging Na+ will first be extracted from these surfaces, and inserted lastly upon discharging. Thirdly, the mixed phosphates Na4M3(PO4)2P2O7 (M=Fe, Mn, Co, Ni) are explored as a fascinating new class of materials reported to be attractive Na-ion cathodes, displaying low volume changes upon cycling indicative of long lifetime operation. Key issues surrounding intrinsic defects, Na-ion migration mechanisms and voltage trends have been investigated through a combination of atomistic energy minimisation, molecular dynamics and DFT simulations. The MD results suggest Na+ diffusion extends across a 3D network of migration pathways with an activation barrier of 0.20-0.24 eV, and diffusion coefficients (DNa) of 10-10-10-11 cm2s-1 at 325 K, suggesting high rate capability. The cell voltage trends, explored using DFT methods, indicate that doping the Fe-based cathode with Ni can significantly increase the voltage, and hence energy density.Finally, DFT simulations of K+-stabilised α-MnO2 have been combined with aberration corrected-STEM techniques to study the surface energetics, particle morphologies and growth mechanism. α-K0.25MnO2 grown through a hydrothermal synthesis method is found to produce primary nanowires with preferential growth along the [001] direction. Primary nanowires attach through a shared (110) interface to form larger secondary nanowires. This is in agreement with DFT simulations with the {100}, {110} and {211} surfaces displaying the lowest surface energies. The ranking of surface energies is driven by Mn coordination environments and surface relaxation. The calculated equilibrium morphology of α-K0.25MnO2 is consistent with the observed primary nanowires from high resolution electron microscopy images.
Date of Award2 Dec 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorMuhammed Islam (Supervisor) & Tim Mays (Supervisor)


  • Sodium
  • Battery
  • Na-ion
  • Li-ion
  • computational chemistry

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