Electronics & Test

A Lesson In Lithium-Ion Volatility

During a teardown of the iPad Air and Microsoft Surface Pro 3 at the Medical Design & Manufacturing Show in Schaumburg, Ill, an engineer showed this "inflammatory" video about the dangers of maliciously mishandling lithium-ion batteries. (The video originally appeared on YouTube.)
10/24/2014 | 4 comments
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A glimpse of the future?
Whirlarang   10/31/2014 3:45:05 PM
This is  disturbing, but most people would not smash their laptop batteries with a hammer. However, physical damage is not the only cause of fires in lithium-based batteries.

Imagine this: there is a large apartment building with an underground garage.  To accommodate the wishes of a number of their tenants, they have installed a multivehicle electric charging system. There is a cluster of say, six or seven cars around it. All have lithium battery packs weighing thousands of pounds. A short occurs while charging one of the cars, and the resulting fire spreads to the others in the cluster. This fire would be almost impossible to extinguish because of the very nature of the materials fueling it.

And that says nothing of a terrorist who realizes this potential.

Mike C
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Fire danger Li Ion
Mike C   11/3/2014 11:59:30 AM
Concernig Short.

LI IOn battery packs for EV and advanced Hybrids have relavtivelt cophisticated battermanagement systems desigen to eliminate this danger. IF you are shohinking a short out side that ssytem then it would be the same as an short ie. an outside igniton source. In this case it would be the same as any fire.

NOT to bellittle the concept. However If one were to attemp this the battery packs would have to be breached or severly damaged to the point where the internal systesm did not fulfill there objective. NOW if one consideres the energy in an advade battery pack ..the 85 KWH hr system on the current Tesla for example....it contains the energy eq. of 110 HP hr at 100 % conversion effieincy.

Assuming a std gasoline engines use this repreents about. 38 lbs of gasoline for an engine operating Lean of peak at the torque peak.  or a bit under 6 gallons of fuel.. IF one were to try to breach the electric car line one could just as easily just breach a 40 gallon fuel tank on an SUV with explosives and an oxidizer for a lot more flexibility.

It woulld alos cause a fire. BIG DEAL. a car fire in a garage. this is not really much of a worry. most garages have sprinkler systesm that can halde this.

As far as the E cars go. agin. ONCE the battery fuel is consumed..no big deal sprinklers take care of the rest.


If the building does not have spinklers. it does not house many cars..so a bunch of catrs burn.


a high rise? they have a LOT of safety systems.




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Jaybird2005   10/31/2014 3:56:01 PM
i can carry this on a plane, but not a tube of toothpaste......

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High School Chemistry
cookiejar   11/8/2014 1:36:12 PM
I still recall our  high school chemistry teacher dropping a piece of sodium in a beaker of water.  It glowed red and ran around on the surface with a smoke trail behind. He then dropped a piece of lithium in a beaker of water.  Just the water vapor caused it to ignite above the water in a blinding white light with profuse smoke. So the last thing you want getting into your Li batteries is water vapor.

In the late '90s I worked in a company providing oil and gas pipeline inspection services to the industry using "pigs": a train of instruments that ran on the inside of the pipeline sensing metal loss using magnetics. The "train" consisted of 5,000 psi pressure vessels  containing the sensors and instrumentation as well as a vessel containing about a gallon's volume of primary lithium batteries.  One day, a technician, after having loaded in the batteries, was tightening the cover bolts with a torque wrench, the vessel between his legs, when the batteries blew, breaking all the bolts off and sending the cover flying.  The pressure wave blew all the tiles out of the lab ceiling into the building proper and left a 2" layer of grey fluff covering the whole lab.  One technician was hit in the face with something requiring 15 stitches.  The technician tightening the pressure lid I'm sure suffered from shell-shock,  or as we now call it PTSD.  The only negative thing I could find on the Internet at the time was that the U.S. military did not use Lithium batteries as they deemed them too dangerous.

While working for another company, we were visiting battery assembly houses looking at various technologies and packaging for our application.  One assembly house informed us that they no longer dealt with Li batteries as one had exploded on the line severing off two fingers of a worker.

These experiences make me quite leery of holding Li batteries next to my head or on top of my crotch.  You must handle them with care.  All you need is a bit of water vapor getting into them and you can have a major problem.


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