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• Electron probe microanalysis is a unique tool to study electrolyte transport.
• Transport into battery electrodes occurs by both capillary wicking and diffusion.
• The tortuosity of the cathode and permeability of the anode are estimated.
The transient transport of electrolytes in thermally-activated batteries is studied using electron probe micro-analysis (EPMA), demonstrating the robust capability of EPMA as a useful tool for studying and quantifying mass transport within porous materials, particularly in difficult environments where classical flow measurements are challenging. By tracking the mobility of bromine and potassium ions from the electrolyte stored within the separator into the lithium silicon anode and iron disulfide cathode, we are able to quantify the transport mechanisms and physical properties of the electrodes including permeability and tortuosity. Due to the micron to submicron scale porous structure of the initially dry anode, a fast capillary pressure driven flow is observed into the anode from which we are able to set a lower bound on the permeability of 10−1 mDarcy. The transport into the cathode is diffusion-limited because the cathode originally contained some electrolyte before activation. Using a transient one-dimensional diffusion model, we estimate the tortuosity of the cathode electrode to be 2.8 ± 0.8.
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Journal: Journal of Power Sources - Volume 320, 15 July 2016, Pages 343–348