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ISSN : 1225-0562(Print)
ISSN : 2287-7258(Online)
Korean Journal of Materials Research Vol.29 No.9 pp.519-524

Fabrication and Characterization of Spherical Carbon-Coated Li3V2(PO4)3 Cathode Material by Hydrothermal Method with Reducing Agent

Jung-In Moon1, Jeong-Hwan Song2
1Department of Materials Engineering, Graduate School of PaiChai University, Daejeon 35345, Republic of Korea
2Department of Materials Science and Engineering, PaiChai University, Daejeon 35345, Republic of Korea
Corresponding author E-Mail : (J.-H. Song, PaiChai Univ.)
July 19, 2019 August 22, 2019 August 27, 2019


Spherical Li3V2(PO4)3 (LVP) and carbon-coated LVP with a monoclinic phase for the cathode materials are synthesized by a hydrothermal method using N2H4 as the reducing agent and saccharose as the carbon source. The results show that single phase monoclinic LVP without impurity phases such as LiV(P2O7), Li(VO)(PO4) and Li3(PO4) can be obtained after calcination at 800 °C for 4 h. SEM and TEM images show that the particle sizes are 0.5~2 μm and the thickness of the amorphous carbon layer is approximately 3~4 nm. CV curves for the test cell are recorded in the potential ranges of 3.0~4.3 V and 3.0~4.8 V at a scan rate of 0.01 mV s–1 and at room temperature. At potentials between 3.0 and 4.8 V, the third Li+ ions from the carbon-coated LVP can be completely extracted, at voltages close to 4.51 V. The carbon-coated LVP exhibits an initial specific discharge capacity of 118 mAh g–1 in the voltage region of 3.0 to 4.3 V at a current rate of 0.2 C. The results indicate that the reducing agent and carbon source can affect the crystal structure and electrochemical properties of the cathode materials.


    Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning
    2017- 0628010

    © Materials Research Society of Korea. All rights reserved.

    This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

    1. Introduction

    Li-ion batteries have been widely used for portable electronic devices and hybrid electric vehicles because of their high energy densities. Among the known cathode materials, either LiCoO2 or LiMnO2 with a layered structure is used in most commercial Li ion secondary batteries.1-4) These materials are industry standard, but they exhibit short lifetimes and low energy densities, and they are expensive and can possibly create safety hazards.

    Currently, olivine-structured phosphate systems such as Li3V2(PO4)3 (LVP)5-9) and doped-Li3V2(PO4)310-15) have attracted wide attention as promising next-generation materials owing to their non-toxicity, low cost, and structural stability. They are also environmentally friendly and exhibit good cycle performance. The monoclinic LVP material is of particular interest because it has good ion mobility, high operating voltage, high theoretical capacity (197 mAh g−1), and good thermal stability. However, the LVP material has lower electronic conductivity and lithium diffusivity as LiFePO4 owing to the polarization of the V-O bond, which greatly restricts its practical application for Li ion batteries. The lower electrical conductance of LVP has been solved to some extent by using doping materials such as transition metal ions in the vanadium sites and alkali ions in the lithium sites.

    Additionally, although carbon composite LVP or carboncoated LVP materials obtained by using citric acid, sucrose, humic acid, and phenolic resin as carbon source is regarded as an effective way of improving the electrochemical performance, it is rather difficult to encapsulate LVP homogeneously with a carbon shell during the formation of LVP at high temperatures.16-20)

    The most common methods of obtaining LVP are solid-state techniques using hydrogen atmosphere or carbon as reducing agents. In general, the synthesis of LVP occurs through the reduction of V5+ to V3+, and a carbon coating is fabricated by a carbothermal reduction with carbon sources. However, the reaction takes place at relatively high temperatures and requires long sintering times, which may result in large particle sizes and aggregation of the particles. Thus, proper methods are needed to prepare the desired LVP at low temperatures. The fabrication of nanostructured LVP material is carried out primarily by microwave solid-state synthesis, sol-gel method, rheological-phase reaction method, and hydrothermal method.21-23) In particular, the hydrothermal method is considered to be an appropriate technology to prepare fine and uniform particles for the synthesis of multicomponent oxides at low temperatures.

    In this work, a hydrothermal synthesis is introduced to prepare spherical monoclinic LVP as a cathode material by using N2H4·H2O as the reducing agent. In order to overcome the poor conductivity, we directly prepared carbon-coated LVP by a hydrothermal method using saccharose as the carbon source. The structure, composition, morphology, and electrochemical performance were compared between carbon-coated LVP and pure LVP.

    2. Experimental

    2.1 Materials and preparation

    In order to prepare 0.01 mol stoichiometric Li3V2(PO4)3, V2O5 (99 %), H3PO4 (solution, 85 %) and LiOH (98 %) were quantitatively employed as the starting materials. The precursor was prepared as follows. V2O5 (0.01 mol) was dissolved in 70 mL of distilled water under magnetic stirring at approximately 75ºC until a clear solution was formed. Then, N2H4·H2O (solution, 80 %) was added as a reducing agent and in quantities three times that of V2O5 to occur reducing reaction. As the amount of reducing agent N2H4·H2O is increased steadily, the product forms gradually and the phase evolution V2O5 → VO2 → V2O3 occurs through the following route:

    2V 2 O 5  + N 2 H 4 H 2 O 4VO 2  + N 2  + 3H 2 O
    4VO 2  + N 2 H 4 H 2 O 2V 2 O 3  + N 2  + 3H 2 O

    H3PO4 and a solution of LiOH were added sequentially dropwise into the abovementioned solution. The resulting solution was vigorously stirred at a holding temperature of 75 ºC for 1h. Finally, this mixture was transferred into a 110 mL Teflon container and the container was sealed. Then, the autoclave was maintained at 200 ºC for 24 h to obtain a green precursor. The precursor obtained by hydrothermal treatment was separated and washed three times with distilled water and ethanol and finally dried at 80 ºC for 24 h. The dried precursor was transferred to a tube furnace equipped with a flowing N2 atmosphere and heat treated at a temperature of 700~800 ºC for 4 h.

    In the same time, the carbon-coated LVP was prepared directly by a hydrothermal method from the abovementioned stoichiometric mixture solution with saccharose (C12H22O11) as the carbon source. Before increasing the temperature, the tube furnace was purged for 30 min. The hydrothermally synthesized precursor was calcined at 700~800 ºC for 4 h under N2 atmosphere at a heating rate of 5 ºC/min.

    2.2 Characterization and electrochemical tests

    The samples were analyzed using X-ray diffraction (XRD) (XD-D1w, Shimadzu, Japan) with Cu Kα radiation at 30 kV and 30 mA to determine the phases and structures of the LVP powders (2º/min, 2θ = 10–60º). The powder size and morphology were observed by field-emission scanning electron microscopy (FE-SEM) (Sirion, FEI, Netherland) and the presence of the carbon layer was confirmed through transmission electron microscopy (TEM) (JEOL Ltd, Japan). The quantitative analysis of the synthesized LVP was carried out by inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES) (Thermo, ICAP 6000). Fourier transforminfrared (FT-IR) spectrophotometry (PerkinElmer 100, UK) was used to determine the nature of the bonds in the LVP using the KBr pellet technique in the wavenumber range of 1,500-400 cm−1. FT-IR samples were prepared by mixing dried LVP with KBr in a 1:10 ratio by weight. The materials were ground by hand in an agate mortar and pressed into molds by holding for 5 min under a press. X-ray photoelectron spectrometry (XPS, MultiLab. ESCA 2000) was used to evaluate the chemical state and electronic state.

    The cathode of the two-electrode electrochemical cell was fabricated by blending the prepared powder with carbon black (Super P) and PVDF (polyvinylidene difluoride) binder in a weight ratio of 80:10:10 in 1- methy-2-pyrrolidone (NMP) solvent. The obtained slurry was coated on Al foil and dried at 100 ºC for 24 h. Lithium foil (99 %) was used as the anode. The separator was Celgard polypropylene (PP). The electrolyte was composed of 1 M LiPF6 dissolved in a solution of ethylene carbonate (EC)/dimethyl carbonate (DMC)/ethylmethyl carbonate (EMC) in the volume ratio 1:1:1. The coincells of CR2032 were assembled in an argon-filled glove box (H2O and O2 < 0.3 ppm). The cyclic voltammogram (CV) curves for the above test cell were recorded in the potential ranges 3.0-4.8 V at a scan rate of 0.01 mV s−1 and at room temperature. Cycling tests were carried out at a charge-discharge rate of 0.2 C between 3.0~4.3 V.

    3. Results and Discussion

    Fig. 1 shows the XRD patterns of the hydrothermally synthesized pure LVP and carbon-coated LVP to determine the crystal structure and purity phase. It can be seen from the figure that their phases are similar to each other. After the hydrothermal reaction, the precursors exhibit intermediate phases such as LiV(P2O7), Li(VO) (PO4) and Li3(PO4). The diffraction peaks of the LVP powders are mainly assigned as indicated in previous reports.18,21) The peaks exhibit good crystallinity at relatively lower temperatures as compared to solid-state reactions, as shown in Fig. 1. However, the product calcined at 700 ºC still contained a secondary phase Li3(PO4). The LVP powders calcined at 800 ºC are indexed to a single-phase monoclinic structure with a space group P21/n. The XRD patterns of the carbon-coated LVP powders calcined at 800 ºC correspond to a single-phase monoclinic structure without any secondary phase. The carbon phase was not detected by XRD, because the amount was comparatively small to 5 % or an amorphous phase. Using ICP, it was determined that the quantitative ratio of Li, V, and P was 37, 24, and 36 at%, respectively.

    The absorption mode of the FT-IR in the carbon-coated LVP obtained from the VO6 and PO4 bands is shown in Fig. 2.24) It is clear that the FT-IR spectra of both samples are similar. As shown in Fig. 2, the bands at 501, 635, and 974 cm−1 can be assigned to the vibration of bonds between V3+ and O2− in the VO6 octahedra. The bands at 950 and 760 cm−1 that correspond to the presence of V5+ ions in VO6 octahedra were not observed. These results indicate that the V5+ in V2O5 is completely reduced to V3+ by the reducing agent. The bands at 575 and 1048 cm−1 suggest the presence of P-O bonds of PO4 tetrahedra. The infrared bands in the range of 1,150~1,250 cm−1 can be attributed to the stretching vibrations of PO4 units.

    XPS was used to determine the compositions and valence of elements in the carbon-coated LVP powder. As shown in Fig. 3, the C 1s core peak occurs at a binding energy of 285.0 eV originating from C-C bond generated carbon obtained from the decomposition of saccharose. This implies that the residual carbon exists in LVP. The O 1s core level shows a single peak with a binding energy of 531.8 eV, which is attributed to the oxygen atoms of (PO4)3−. The P 2p peak appeared at 134.1 eV, and a Li 1s peak have appeared at around 56.1 eV, although it could not be clearly detected here. The V 2p core peak of the carbon-coated LVP appears at 517.5 eV and matches well with the peak observed in V2O3. Furthermore, the oxidation state of V is estimated to be +3.14,24) Thus, it is clear that carbon is present because of the decomposition of saccharose and V5+ is reduced to V3+ for the obtained carbon-coated LVP powder.

    The morphology of both samples is shown in the SEM images in Fig. 4. Both precursor samples have a powder size of approximately 0.5~2 μm with a spherical morphology. After calcinations at 800ºC, the LVP formed a network of secondary particles, which maintained the initial morphology without the growth of spherical particles, as shown in Figs. 4(c) and (d). The thickness of the amorphous carbon layer was approximately 3~4 nm, which was confirmed by the TEM images in Fig. 5.20,25) All these results indicate that the LVP powder can be well connected through these carbon layers, and it is believed that the presence of this carbon layer is useful for improving the electrical conductivity and electrochemical properties.

    Fig. 6 shows the CV curves for the pure LVP and the carbon-coated LVP samples in the potential ranges 3.0-4.3 V and 3.0-4.8 V at a scan rate of 0.01 mV s−1. The characteristics of the plots are indicative of the complex insertion-extraction reactions of the Li ions for the electrode. In Fig. 6(a), the profiles exhibit three oxidation peaks of around 3.56, 3.64, and 4.05 V and three corresponding reduction peaks of 3.48, 3.56, and 3.93 V at x = 0.0–0.5, x = 0.5–1.0, and x = 1.0–2.0 in L3-xV2(PO4)3 from a reversible reaction. The capacity profile shown in Fig. 6(b) can be found on the four oxidation peaks at about 3.56, 3.64, 4.05, and 4.51 V, and three reduction peaks become indistinct. The oxidation peak at 4.51 V is ascribed to the complete extraction of the third Li+ ion from LVP. It is apparent that compositional transitions occurred to the V2(PO4)3 structure, associated with the V4+/V5+ redox couple.17) Although the CV curve of carbon-coated LVP is similar with LVP, the carbon-coated LVP exhibits sharper and more symmetrical current peaks than pure LVP. The results indicate that the carbon coating layer helps improve the electrochemical performance.

    Fig. 7 shows an initial charge-discharge profile of the pure LVP and the carbon-coated LVP cells in the potential range from 3.0 to 4.3 V at a rate of 0.2 C. The voltage profiles exhibit three charge plateaus and the corresponding three discharge ones, which corresponds to three compositional regions of L3-xV2(PO4)3, that is, x = 0.0–0.5, x = 0.5–1.0, and x = 1.0–2.0. The charge-discharge behavior of the LVP electrode may be interpreted by the CV curve in the voltage range of 3.0~4.3V shown in Fig. 6. Pure LVP has an initial discharge capacity of 101 mAh g−1, whereas that for the carbon-coated LVP is 118 mAh g−1. Because of the low conductivity and polarization of the pure LVP, it will have a low discharge capacity. However, because of the high conductivity of lithium in the carbon-coated LVP, a rapid cycle of reversible elimination-insertion of Li ions occurred, which facilitates a high discharge capacity.

    4. Conclusions

    Pure LVP and carbon-coated LVP cathode materials were synthesized by a hydrothermal treatment using N2H4·H2O as a reducing agent and saccharose (C12H22O11) as a carbon source. The thermal treatment following the hydrothermal method was performed at a lower temperature than that of the conventional solid-state reactions. The obtained LVP powders showed uniform and spherical morphology with powder sizes of approximately 0.5~2.0 μm. This work shows that powders were obtained for pure LVP and carbon-coated LVP with a monoclinic phase at 800 ºC for 4 h without any morphological change. TEM image confirmed that the LVP powder were encapsulated in an amorphous carbon shell approximately 3~4 nm thick. As lithium was inserted and extracted, the results show a reversible reaction because the V3+/V4+ complex was present in the range 3.0-4.3 V. In the 3.0~4.8 V range, however, the results show an irreversible reaction because of the overvoltage caused by the existence of the V4+/V5+ complex. The rate capacities of the pure LVP and carbon-coated LVP cathode materials cycled at different currents in the range 3.0-4.3 V were investigated. The initial discharge capacity was 101 mAh g−1 in the pure LVP, and the capacity of carbon-coated LVP was 118 mAh g−1. The discharge capacities of each current rate were almost stable within their cycles. The carbon-coated LVP cathode materials exhibited enhanced discharge capacity and cycle performance.


    This research was supported by Nano·Material Technology Development Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea(NRF) funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning(2017- 0628010).



    X-ray diffraction patterns of (a) Li3V2(PO4)3 and (b) carboncoated Li3V2(PO4)3 prepared by hydrothermal method.


    FT-IR spectra of carbon-coated Li3V2(PO4)3 powders (a) asprepared and (b) heat treated at 800 ºC for 4 h.


    XPS spectrum of carbon-coated Li3V2(PO4)3 heat treated at 800 ºC for 4 h.


    FE-SEM images of (a, c) Li3V2(PO4)3 and (b, d) carbon-coated Li3V2(PO4)3 prepared by hydrothermal method. The samples shown in (c) and (d) were heat treated at 800 ºC for 4 h.


    TEM image of (a) carbon-coated Li3V2(PO4)3 powder and (b) uniform coverage of amorphous carbon layer on the surface of carboncoated Li3V2(PO4)3.


    CV curves for Li3V2(PO4)3 (dashed line) and carbon-coated Li3V2(PO4)3 (solid line) cathode in the potential range (a) 3.0~4.3 V and (b) 3.0~4.8 V at a scan rate of 0.01 mV s−1 and at room temperature.


    Initial charge~discharge profiles of Li3V2(PO4)3 (dashed line) and carbon-coated Li3V2(PO4)3 (solid line) at 0.2 C rate in the voltage range of 3.0~4.3 V at room temperature.



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