Safety share: Lithium ion batteries, tips to avoid potential fires
Advances in technology have allowed scientists to build safer and more reliable batteries, but there have still been several reports of lithium ion batteries overheating, bulging, smoking, causing fires and even exploding.
Why does this happen?
This troubling occurrence is often the result of an electrochemical reaction known as “thermal runaway.” This occurs when cells inside the battery short-circuit, producing excessive heat and pressure buildup leading to structural failure and, in worst case, combustion.
Product recalls on defective lithium ion batteries have drastically decreased the number of thermal runaway cases but improper storage and use of these devices can also play a role in catastrophic battery failure.
Proper use, maintenance and storage
To prevent your lithium ion powered device from experiencing thermal runaway, and to maximize the battery’s lifespan, here’s what you should do:
- Store the device in ideal temperatures—between 62° to 72° F.
- Keep the airflow ports unobstructed.
- Avoid exposure to extreme ambient temperatures and moisture.
- Only use manufacture-provided charging cables.
- Read and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for proper charging of the battery.
- Avoid excessive vibration, dropping or damaging the device.
- Prevent puncture of the battery particularly with proximity to other equipment and during battery removal.
- Replace lithium ion batteries after two to three years.
- Store the device half-charged (50%) and powered off when storing for longer than six months.
What to do in an emergency
If a device is overheating or bulging, unplug the device and contact the Argonne Service Desk at ext. 2-9999, option 2.
If your device is smoking or producing crackling noises, you should:
- Alert others nearby and call 9-1-1 from a landline or 630-252-1911 from a cell phone.
- Retrieve a fire extinguisher.
- Place yourself at least 10 feet away from the device or evacuate the area if necessary.
Note: Even if the flame appears to have been extinguished, it may reactivate, so it is wise to stay clear of the area until the device has been removed or effectively contained by professionals.
- If an Argonne-issued device is overheating or bulging, unplug the device, remove the battery if it’s possible to do so without tools, and contact the Argonne Service Desk at 630-252-9999, option 2.
- If the device is smoking or making crackling noises, call 9-1-1.
Please print and share this safety share with your colleagues.
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Each month a safety share submitted by an individual will be selected to receive a Spot Award for demonstrated safety leadership. The Spot Award program offers three award levels: gold ($100), silver ($50) and bronze ($25).