Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Chemical and Materials Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Yang-Tse Cheng

Second Advisor

Dr. Fuqian Yang


Lithium-ion batteries with higher capacity and longer cycle life than that available today are required as secondary energy sources for a wide range of emerging applications. In particular, the cycling performance of several candidate materials for lithium-ion battery electrodes is insufficient because of the fast capacity fading and short cycle life, which is mainly a result of mechanical degradation.

This dissertation mainly focuses on the issue of mechanical degradation in advanced lithium-ion battery electrodes. Thin films of tin electrodes were studied where we observed whisker growth as a result of electrochemical cycling. These whiskers bring safety concerns because they may penetrate through the separator, and cause short-circuit of the electrochemical cells. Cracking patterns generated in amorphous silicon thin film electrodes because of electrochemical cycling were observed and analyzed. A two-dimensional spring-block model was proposed to successfully simulate the observed cracking patterns. With semi-quantitative study of the cracking pattern features, two strategies to void cracking in thin-film electrodes were proposed, namely reducing the film thickness and patterning the thin-film electrodes.

We also investigated electrodes consisting of low melting point elements and showed that cracks can be self-healed by the solid-to-liquid phase transformation upon cycling. Using gallium as an example, mechanical degradation as a failure mechanism for lithium-ion battery electrodes can be eliminated.

In order to quantitatively understand the effect of surface modification on electrodes, we analyzed diffusion equations with boundary conditions of finite interfacial reactions, and proposed a modified potentialstatic intermittent titration technique (PITT) as an electro-analytical technique to study diffusion and interfacial kinetics. The modified PITT has been extended to thin-film geometry and spherical geometry, and thus can be used to study thin-film and composite electrodes consisting of particles as active materials.