Energy landscape and diffusion kinetics of lithiated silicon: A kinetic activation-relaxation technique study

M Trochet and N Mousseau, PHYSICAL REVIEW B, 96, 134118 (2017).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.96.134118

With large specific and volumetric capacity, lithiated silicon is an excellent anode for lithium-ion batteries. Its application is challenged today, however, by the formation of an amorphous a-Li x Si phase associated with a large volume change that occurs at relatively low Li concentration and remains only very partly understood at the microscopic level. In this paper, we characterize the full energy landscape associated with the onset of Li insertion in crystalline Si as a first step for understanding the lithiation process. We identify the diffusion mechanisms and migration energies for one to ten Li atoms in a Si crystal as well as the average lifetime of small lithium aggregates, using the kinetic activation-relaxation technique (kART), an off-lattice kinetic Monte-Carlo method with on-the-fly catalog building capabilities coupled to a newly developed force field (ReaxFF) used as potential based on ab initio results. We show that the short lifetimes of the bound states (from meV to ten meV) mean that Li atoms move in the interstitial sublattice with little interactions, explaining how high Li concentration in Si can be reached.

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