As potential high capacity anode materials for lithium ion batteries, the Sn and Ni-Sn alloy coatings have been investigated by many electrochemical researchers. However, their mechanical properties have not been extensively studied, despite the fact that such anode films may fail mechanically during service. Thus, in this study nanoindentation and nanowear tests have been performed. Nanoindentation tests reveal that the ability to carry the load dramatically reduces in the Sn coating after one charge-discharge cycle which makes the plastic strain accumulation in the copper substrate play a greater contribution to crack formation and propagation in repeated charge-discharge cycling. Upon the nanoindentation analysis, it also shows that the pores formed by lithiation/delithiation can easily collapse at low loads. Furthermore, nanowear tests explore that the damage resistance of the Sn-Ni alloy film significantly improves after one charge-discharge cycle but it decreases in the Sn film after the same charge-discharge cycle; this explains why the degradation rate of the Ni-Sn alloy is slow after the first charge-discharge cycle and why the high capacity is maintained in further cycling. The links between the mechanical characterization and the degradation in charge-discharge cycling are also discussed.
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