The rate performance of lithium-ion secondary batteries depends critically on the kinetic transport of Li within the anode material. Here we use first-principles theoretical calculations to study the diffusion of Li in the low-concentration limit, using model electrodes of crystalline and four-fold coordinated bulk amorphous silicon. We identify Li diffusion pathways that have relatively low energy barriers (<0.50 eV) in amorphous silicon and discuss how diffusion at short (∼2.5 Å), intermediate (∼10 Å), and long (>1 nm) distances depends on the atomic-scale features of the silicon host. We find that both the energy barriers for diffusion and the topology of the atomic structure control the diffusion. We estimate the diffusion rate in amorphous Si anode to be comparable to the rate in crystalline Si anodes. These findings shed light on the wide range of reported experimental results for Li diffusion in Si anodes.
A tough material commonly used in coatings is diamond-like carbon (DLC), that is, amorphous carbon with content in four-fold coordinated C higher than ∼70%, and its composites with metal inclusions. This study aims to offer useful guidelines for the design and development of metal-containing DLC coatings for solar collectors, where the efficiency of the collector depends critically on the performance of the absorber coating. We use first-principles calculations based on density functional theory to study the structural, electronic, optical, and elastic properties of DLC and its composites with Ag and Cu inclusions at 1.5% and 3.0% atomic concentration, to evaluate their suitability for solar thermal energy harvesting. We find that with increasing metal concentration optical absorption is significantly enhanced while at the same time, the composite retains good mechanical strength: DLC with 70–80% content in four-fold coordinated C and small metal concentrations (<3 at. %) will show high absorption in the visible (absorption coefficients higher than 105 cm−1) and good mechanical strength (bulk and Young's modulus higher than 300 and 500 GPa, respectively).