Lithium-Ion Batteries: An Explosive Surprise

By September 20, 2016Burn Injuries

Electronic Cigarettes, modern laptops, cell phones, video games, and other devices are most often powered nowadays by the widely used lithium-ion battery. While these batteries can be reliable, quick to charge and convenient, there are an increasing number of cases of an unpleasant surprise: the batteries can explode or catch fire when overheated. This can present a serious burn hazard for anyone nearby, not to mention the loss of whatever device the battery was attached to. A quick YouTube search of “lithium-ion battery explosion” or “lithium-ion battery fire” can show ample evidence of how serious these incidents can be.

How Does It Happen?

Of course, we wouldn’t have all of these devices if it weren’t for the batteries, so it makes sense that companies would take precautions in the design. Most batteries actually have built in safety measures to prevent situations like this from occurring. But when these safety measures, for whatever reason, fail, the battery can become prone to explosion or fire. The actual reaction itself is a chain reaction starting from whatever end of the battery that started to heat up first, and when it can’t cool down quickly enough, it travels to all other ends of the battery, overheating it and causing fire or explosion. When this happens you can experience both thermal AND chemical burns, given the chemical nature of batteries.

How Can I Avoid Incidents?

Because most lithium-ion batteries are supposedly equipped with safety measures to avoid failure and fire, you may not need to change your regular behavior when charging or interacting your device. However, given recent events and recalls on some of these products, it is important to take caution. It is better to be cautious and safe than it is to be relaxed and end up with a burn. Here are some things you can do to take extra care to avoid incidents with your rechargeable battery operated devices:

  • Avoid charging your device when it is at a low temperature. Charging at low temperatures can heat up the battery faster than usual, and allow heat to spread throughout the battery faster. Most devices are equipped with safety measures that do not allow the battery to be charged at lower temperatures; however, improperly designed batteries, worn out batteries, or batteries that have been dropped or damaged may not have appropriate safety measures.
  • Avoid charging your device on surfaces that will likely retain heat. Charging your battery on a bed, clothing, blankets, couch, or other cloth material can cause your battery to retain heat when charging, which may lead to overheating.
  • Don’t continue to make use of a worn out, dropped, or damaged battery. Batteries that have expired past their point of use, or that have been dropped or damaged will likely not be able to make use of the designer’s safety features, and should be replaced immediately.
  • Don’t purchase unsafe or unverified replacement batteries. If you need to replace a battery, always order from the original manufacturer or a verified source that is compatible with your device. At times, the off-brand manufacturers may cut corners in their production. It may save you some cash now, but you might pay for it later.

Will Walker

About Will Walker