Lithium-Ion battery fires MGN 681

What causes Lithium battery fires?

Lithium batteries can catch fire due to a phenomenon known as thermal runaway. Thermal runaway occurs when the battery’s internal temperature increases rapidly, leading to a self-perpetuating cycle of further heat generation. This can cause powerful explosions, fires of over 1000°C and a huge amount of toxic gas to be released.

Several factors can contribute to thermal runaway in lithium batteries:

  1. Internal short circuit: If the separator between the positive and negative electrodes inside the battery is breached, it can lead to a short circuit. This short circuit can cause a rapid discharge of energy within the battery, leading to heating and potentially ignition of the electrolyte.
  2. Overcharging or over discharging: Charging a lithium battery beyond its designed voltage or discharging it below a certain voltage threshold can cause internal damage to the battery’s components. This damage can lead to the formation of dendrites (metallic whiskers) or other defects, which can increase the risk of internal short circuits and thermal runaway.
  3. Physical damage: Mechanical damage to the battery, such as punctures or crushing, can compromise the integrity of the cell and lead to internal short circuits. Dropping a device containing a lithium battery or subjecting it to other forms of physical trauma can increase the risk of thermal runaway.
  4. Manufacturing defects: Errors in the manufacturing process, such as improper assembly or contamination of battery materials, can create weaknesses within the battery that increase the likelihood of thermal runaway.
  5. Exposure to high temperatures: Operating or storing lithium batteries in environments with elevated temperatures can accelerate the rate of chemical reactions within the battery, increasing the risk of thermal runaway. High temperatures can also cause the decomposition of the electrolyte, releasing flammable gases that can contribute to a fire.
  6. External heat sources: Exposure to external heat sources, such as a nearby fire or prolonged exposure to sunlight, can raise the temperature of the battery and trigger thermal runaway.

Overall, a combination of factors, including design flaws, external conditions, and operational misuse, can contribute to the risk of lithium batteries catching fire.

Manufacturers do employ various safety measures, such as battery management systems and protective circuitry, to minimize these risks, but incidents can still occur so the only truly safe option is to charge and store your batteries in a certified LiVault product.