Silicon is regarded as one of the most promising anode materials for lithium-ion batteries. Its high theoretical capacity (4000 mAh/g) has the potential to meet the demands of high-energy density applications, such as electric air and ground vehicles. The volume expansion of Si during lithiation is over 300%, indicating its promise as a large strain electrochemical actuator. A Si-anode battery is multifunctional, storing electrical energy and actuating through volume change by lithium-ion insertion.
To utilize the property of large volume expansion, we design, fabricate, and test two types of Si anode cantilevers with bi-directional actuation: (a) bimorph actuator and (b) insulated double unimorph actuator. A transparent battery chamber is fabricated, provided with NCM cathodes, and filled with electrolyte. The relationship between state of charge and electrode deformation is measured using current integration and high-resolution photogrammetry, respectively. The electrochemical performance, including voltage versus capacity and Coulombic efficiency versus cycle number, is measured for several charge/discharge cycles. Both configurations exhibit deflections in two directions and can store energy. In case (a), the largest deflection is roughly 35% of the cantilever length. Twisting and unexpected bending deflections are observed in this case, possibly due to back-side lithiation, non-uniform coating thickness, and uneven lithium distribution. In case (b), the single silicon active coating layer can deflect 12 passive layers.