Lithium (or Li-ion) batteries are declared safe for use, but with millions of individuals and companies utilizing them, some failures are likely to happen from time to time.
It has been years since the famous recall of the Samsung Galaxy phones, which were known to explode in people's hands.
However, exploding cell phones, e-cigarettes, and laptops continue to be an issue. Several household products include lithium-ion batteries.
You can find them from mobile phones, tablets, and laptops to electric vehicles and medical equipment.
Due to the growing popularity of lithium-ion batteries, organizations, employees, and homeowners who often use lithium-ion-powered goods and gadgets must be aware of the safety concerns and basic handling and storage requirements to prevent fires and accidents.
Although these situations are unusual, it is essential to be prepared for them. Here, we will explain how lithium batteries can catch fire, how to put these fires out, and how you can be better prepared to avoid this situation in the future.
What Are The Signs Of A Battery Fire?
It is crucial to recognize the warning signs that indicate a lithium-ion battery fire is imminent.
The battery itself is likely to expand, change color, and maybe blister, although you will often not be able to see this happening as the battery will be in your device.
You must instead rely on your other senses to warn you. If your equipment becomes extremely hot, begins to smoke, or appears to be swelling, it may be about to explode or catch fire.
If you fear your gadget might catch fire, you should avoid touching it with your bare hands.
What Causes The Batteries To Catch Fire?
Should you be afraid about your computer or smartphone catching fire unexpectedly?
While hearing stories of phones exploding can be scary, the reality is that these occurrences are very rare, so you don't have to worry too much.
Two primary types of lithium-ion battery failure exist. First, Li-ion batteries are often recalled when a manufacturing flaw is identified.
Two unique battery issues in the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, for example, led to two successive recalls and, ultimately, the model's permanent departure from the market.
Identifying the second type of battery failure is trickier. Typically, it is the result of a stressful event, such as vibration or an electrical short, although it can also occur randomly.
A modest short will only cause an increase in self-discharge, and because of the low discharging power, the heat accumulation will be insignificant.
If a sufficient number of tiny metallic particles converge on a single point, a significant current runs between the cell's electrodes, heating and weakening the point.
A buildup of heat in a cell can break the insulating layer and cause an electrical short, similar to when a bit of a water leak in a damaged hydro dam might turn into a torrent and demolish a structure.
When the temperature hits 932 degrees Fahrenheit (500 degrees Celsius), the cell either catches fire or explodes.
How To Extinguish The Fire
If the worst-case scenario happens and your lithium battery catches fire, you must know how to put out the flames safely.
Although all fires are dangerous, lithium-ion battery fires may be particularly dangerous.
This is because they release a toxic, flammable gas that can create fires and harm those in the area.
These fires are classified as Class B because the battery contains flammable liquid.
Lith Ex Li-ion fire extinguishers with CE certification are also known as Li-ion fire extinguishers and are highly effective in combating these fires.
They are safe for tight places since they include the non-toxic chemical Aqueous Vermiculite Dispersion (AVD).
Class D fire extinguishers containing foam and carbon dioxide are also efficient against this type of fire.
Water can be sprayed on small lithium-ion batteries that contain minimal lithium metal.
Foam, CO2, ABC dry chemical, graphite powder, copper powder, or sodium carbonate are the most effective means for extinguishing larger battery fires.
If the fire cannot be extinguished, the surrounding area must be doused with water to prevent its spread.
Each cell in a battery pack may burn at a different rate when exposed to heat. If you are safely able to move the battery, you should leave the pack outside until the flames have burned out.
How To Prevent Battery Fires
The most effective method for preventing a fire is to employ preventative measures.
Although it is hard to predict when and how a fire may start, there are several ways to safeguard your property and the people within it.
If you operate a company or industrial facility that stores a substantial amount of lithium-ion batteries, you should focus your initial prevention efforts there.
First, ensure that any fire extinguishers are readily accessible so that, if a fire does break out, it can be quickly contained.
In addition, verify the presence of fire protection measures. Particularly if the storage space will be actively used.
To prevent the spread of fire, these measures may include fire doors and the sealing of wall and floor gaps.
In the event of a fire, you must also ensure that all ventilation is shut off to deny the fire oxygen and prevent its spread.
If your operations require the transport of lithium-ion batteries, you must package them in the proper protective packaging and label them with the corresponding HAZMAT symbols.
Other Safety Tips
- Always adhere to local and state regulations regarding battery disposal.
- Use the battery that was designed for your device.
- Use only the wire included with the device to charge it.
- Do not subject batteries to direct sunlight or hot vehicles.
- Place batteries in dry, ventilated locations.
While lithium battery fires are pretty rare, there is no harm in preparing yourself just in case one occurs.
When putting out this kind of fire, you have to make sure that you are using the correct fire extinguisher (Class D), and are taking all the necessary precautions to keep yourself, others, and your home/workplace safe.