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  1. Abstract

    Non‐equilibrium defects often dictate the macroscopic properties of materials. They largely define the reversibility and kinetics of processes in intercalation hosts in rechargeable batteries. Recently, imaging methods have demonstrated that transient dislocations briefly appear in intercalation hosts during ion diffusion. Despite new discoveries, the understanding of impact, formation and self‐healing mechanisms of transient defects, including and beyond dislocations, is lacking. Here, operando X‐ray Bragg Coherent Diffractive Imaging (BCDI) and diffraction peak analysis capture the stages of formation of a unique metastable domain boundary, defect self‐healing, and resolve the local impact of defects on ionic diffusion in NaxNi1−yMnyO2intercalation hosts in a charging sodium‐ion battery. Results, applicable to a wide range of layered intercalation materials due to the shared nature of framework layers, elucidate new dynamics of transient defects and their connection to macroscopic properties, and suggest how to control the nanostructure dynamics.

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  2. Abstract

    Hydrogen fuel cells and electrolyzers operating below 600 °C, ideally below 400 °C, are essential components in the clean energy transition. Yttrium‐doped barium zirconate BaZr0.8Y0.2O3‐d(BZY) has attracted a lot of attention as a proton‐conducting solid oxide for electrochemical devices due to its high chemical stability and proton conductivity in the desired temperature range. Grain interfaces and topological defects modulate bulk proton conductivity and hydration, especially at low temperatures. Therefore, understanding the nanoscale crystal structure dynamics in situ is crucial to achieving high proton transport, material stability, and extending the operating range of proton‐conducting solid oxides. Here, Bragg coherent X‐ray diffractive imaging is applied to investigate in situ and in 3D nanoscale dynamics in BZY during hydration over 40 h at 200 °C, in the low‐temperature range. An unexpected activity of topological defects and subsequent cracking is found on a nanoscale covered by the macroscale stability. The rearrangements in structure correlate with emergent regions of different lattice constants, suggesting heterogeneous hydration. The results highlight the extent and impact of nanoscale processes in proton‐conducting solid oxides, informing future development of low‐temperature protonic ceramic electrochemical cells.

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  3. Abstract

    Structural and ion‐ordering phase transitions limit the viability of sodium‐ion intercalation materials in grid scale battery storage by reducing their lifetime. However, the combination of phenomena in nanoparticulate electrodes creates complex behavior that is difficult to investigate, especially on the single‐nanoparticle scale under operating conditions. In this work, operando single‐particle X‐ray diffraction (oSP‐XRD) is used to observe single‐particle rotation, interlayer spacing, and layer misorientation in a functional sodium‐ion battery. oSP‐XRD is applied to Na2/3[Ni1/3Mn2/3]O2, an archetypal P2‐type sodium‐ion‐positive electrode material with the notorious P2‐O2 phase transition induced by sodium (de)intercalation. It is found that during sodium extraction, the misorientation of crystalline layers inside individual particles increases before the layers suddenly align just prior to the P2‐O2 transition. The increase in the long‐range order coincides with an additional voltage plateau signifying a phase transition prior to the P2‐O2 transition. To explain the layer alignment, a model for the phase evolution is proposed that includes a transition from localized to correlated Jahn–Teller distortions. The model is anticipated to guide further characterization and engineering of sodium‐ion intercalation materials with P2‐O2 type transitions. oSP‐XRD, therefore, opens a powerful avenue for revealing complex phase behavior in heterogeneous nanoparticulate systems.

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  4. Bragg coherent X-ray diffractive imaging is a cutting-edge method for recovering three-dimensional crystal structure with nanoscale resolution. Phase retrieval provides an atomic displacement parallel to the Bragg peak reciprocal lattice vector. The derivative of the displacement along the same vector provides the normal strain field, which typically serves as a proxy for any structural changes. In this communication it is found that the other component of the displacement gradient, perpendicular to the reciprocal lattice vector, provides additional information from the experimental data collected from nanocrystals with mobile dislocations. Demonstration on published experimental data show how the perpendicular component of the displacement gradient adds to existing analysis, enabling an estimate for the external stresses, pinpointing the location of surface dislocations, and predicting the dislocation motion in in situ experiments. 
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  5. null (Ed.)