Interpreting electrochemical and chemical sodiation mechanisms and kinetics in tin antimony battery anodes using in situ transmission electron microscopy and computational methods

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Intermetallic compounds such as SnSb are promising anode materials for sodium ion batteries; however, their nanoscale sodiation mechanisms are not well understood. Here, we used a combination of in situ transmission electron microscopy (TEM), first-principles electronic structure calculations, computational thermodynamic modeling, and phase-field simulations to reveal the sodiation mechanisms and to quantify microstructural effects contributing to the underlying reaction kinetics in SnSb electrodes. During in situ sodiation experiments, the nanocrystalline SnSb thin films underwent a rapid amorphous phase transformation upon sodiation, as determined by in situ TEM and electron diffraction experiments. The Na+ diffusion coefficients were measured with and without an external electrical bias, and the data showed that an applied potential increased Na+ diffusion by an order of magnitude compared to solid-state diffusion. Furthermore, there was a distinct decrease in sodium diffusion upon the formation of the amorphous phase that resulted from a change in the local structure and grain boundaries. To further understand how the Na+ transport mechanism correlated with the changes observed in the SnSb thin films, phase-field modeling was used, which considered sodium diffusion within the grain boundaries together with their evolution and stress–strain state. These findings enhance our understanding of sodiation mechanisms within intermetallic anode materials for sodium ion battery applications.

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© 2019 American Chemical Society. Publisher's version of record: https://doi.org/10.1021/acsaem.9b00310

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ACS Applied Energy Materials