Mathematical modelling of LiFePO4 cathodes

Dargaville, Steven (2013) Mathematical modelling of LiFePO4 cathodes. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


LiFePO4 is a commercially available battery material with good theoretical discharge capacity, excellent cycle life and increased safety compared with competing Li-ion chemistries. It has been the focus of considerable experimental and theoretical scrutiny in the past decade, resulting in LiFePO4 cathodes that perform well at high discharge rates. This scrutiny has raised several questions about the behaviour of LiFePO4 material during charge and discharge. In contrast to many other battery chemistries that intercalate homogeneously, LiFePO4 can phase-separate into highly and lowly lithiated phases, with intercalation proceeding by advancing an interface between these two phases.

The main objective of this thesis is to construct mathematical models of LiFePO4 cathodes that can be validated against experimental discharge curves. This is in an attempt to understand some of the multi-scale dynamics of LiFePO4 cathodes that can be difficult to determine experimentally. The first section of this thesis constructs a three-scale mathematical model of LiFePO4 cathodes that uses a simple Stefan problem (which has been used previously in the literature) to describe the assumed phase-change. LiFePO4 crystals have been observed agglomerating in cathodes to form a porous collection of crystals and this morphology motivates the use of three size-scales in the model. The multi-scale model developed validates well against experimental data and this validated model is then used to examine the role of manufacturing parameters (including the agglomerate radius) on battery performance.

The remainder of the thesis is concerned with investigating phase-field models as a replacement for the aforementioned Stefan problem. Phase-field models have recently been used in LiFePO4 and are a far more accurate representation of experimentally observed crystal-scale behaviour. They are based around the Cahn-Hilliard-reaction (CHR) IBVP, a fourth-order PDE with electrochemical (flux) boundary conditions that is very stiff and possesses multiple time and space scales. Numerical solutions to the CHR IBVP can be difficult to compute and hence a least-squares based Finite Volume Method (FVM) is developed for discretising both the full CHR IBVP and the more traditional Cahn-Hilliard IBVP. Phase-field models are subject to two main physicality constraints and the numerical scheme presented performs well under these constraints.

This least-squares based FVM is then used to simulate the discharge of individual crystals of LiFePO4 in two dimensions. This discharge is subject to isotropic Li+ diffusion, based on experimental evidence that suggests the normally orthotropic transport of Li+ in LiFePO4 may become more isotropic in the presence of lattice defects. Numerical investigation shows that two-dimensional Li+ transport results in crystals that phase-separate, even at very high discharge rates. This is very different from results shown in the literature, where phase-separation in LiFePO4 crystals is suppressed during discharge with orthotropic Li+ transport.

Finally, the three-scale cathodic model used at the beginning of the thesis is modified to simulate modern, high-rate LiFePO4 cathodes. High-rate cathodes typically do not contain (large) agglomerates and therefore a two-scale model is developed. The Stefan problem used previously is also replaced with the phase-field models examined in earlier chapters. The results from this model are then compared with experimental data and fit poorly, though a significant parameter regime could not be investigated numerically. Many-particle effects however, are evident in the simulated discharges, which match the conclusions of recent literature. These effects result in crystals that are subject to local currents very different from the discharge rate applied to the cathode, which impacts the phase-separating behaviour of the crystals and raises questions about the validity of using cathodic-scale experimental measurements in order to determine crystal-scale behaviour.

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ID Code: 60800
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Farrell, Troy W. & Turner, Ian
Keywords: LiFePO4, Phase-field, Mathematical modelling, Multi-scale, Cahn-Hilliard, Cahn-Hilliard-reaction, Defects, Finite-Volume Method, Least-squares, Lithium-ion
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Mathematical Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 Steven Dargaville
Deposited On: 13 Jun 2013 22:14
Last Modified: 02 Sep 2015 10:01

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