Direct visualization of sulfur cathodes: New insights into Li-S batteries via operando X-ray based methods

Seung Ho Yu, Xin Huang, Kathleen Schwarz, Rong Huang, Tomás A. Arias, Joel D. Brock, Héctor D. Abruña

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Citations (Scopus)


As the need for the development of "beyond lithium" ion battery technologies continues unabated, lithium sulfur batteries have attracted widespread attention due to their very high theoretical energy density of 2600 W h kg-1. However, despite much effort, the detailed reaction mechanism remains poorly understood. In this study, we have combined operando X-ray diffraction and X-ray microscopy along with X-ray tomography, to visualize the evolution of both the morphology and crystal structure of the materials during the entire battery cycling (discharging/charging) process. The dissolution and reformation of sulfur clusters is clearly observed during cycling. In addition, we demonstrate, for the first time, the critical role of current density and temperature in determining the size of both the resulting sulfur clusters and Li2S particles. This study provides new insights about promising avenues for the continued development of lithium sulfur batteries, which we believe may lead to their broad deployment and application.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-210
Number of pages9
JournalEnergy and Environmental Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jan
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is based upon research conducted at the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS) which is supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of General Medical Sciences under NSF award DMR-1332208. S.-H. Y. acknowledges the financial support from the Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Education (2015R1A6A3A03020354). S.-H. Y. and X. H. acknowledge support from CHESS and the Energy Materials Center at Cornell (emc2).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Royal Society of Chemistry.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Pollution


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