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Battery Safety

Learn what causes Li-ion to fail

There are two basic types of battery failures. The first may occur at a predictable interval-per-million and be connected with a design flaw involving the electrode, separator, electrolyte and/or manufacturing processes. The second type of failure is random.

What to do when a battery overheats

If battery overheats, hisses or bulges, immediately move the device away from people, pets and flammable materials and place it on a non-combustible surface. If at all possible, put a disintegrating device outdoors and let it burn out. A Li-ion fire can be handled like any other combustible fire and for best result use a foam extinguisher, CO2, ABC dry chemical, powdered graphite, copper powder or soda (sodium carbonate). The gas released by venting of a Li-ion cell as part of pressure buildup is mainly carbon dioxide (CO2). Other gases that form through abusive heating are vaporized electrolyte consisting of ethylene and/or propylene. Burning gases include combustion products of the organic solvents.

Key points

  • Lithium-ion batteries contain little lithium metal and can be dowsed with water in case of a fire. Only non-rechargeable lithium-metal batteries require a Class D extinguisher.
  • For best results, use a foam extinguisher, CO2, ABC dry chemical, powdered graphite, copper powder or soda (sodium carbonate) as you would to extinguish any other fire.
  • If the fire of a burning lithium-ion battery cannot be extinguished, allow the pack to burn out on its own in a controlled and safe way.
  • Lithium-ion batteries have become very safe and heat-related failures occur rarely under correct use.
Battery knowledge and safety are important. Here is more important information on batteries from Battery University.