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How to Put out a Lithium Batteries Fire?

2023-12-12
Lithium batteries are a fire hazard. Since 1991, lithium batteries have been the standard for power across industries from cell phones and computers to electric vehicles and solar storage.  While these batteries provide an effective and efficient source of power, the likelihood of them overheating, catching on fire, and even leading to explosions increases when they are damaged or improperly used, charged, or stored. 

Lithium batteries are generally considered safe, yet with their widespread use by millions of consumers, occasional failures are inevitable. In 2006, a rare breakdown, occurring at a rate of one in 200,000, led to the recall of nearly six million lithium packs. The manufacturer, Sony, explained that in exceptional cases, tiny metal particles could cause a short circuit within the battery cell when they come into contact with other components.

 

 

 

Why Do Lithium Batteries Catch Fire?

 

  • They are made from a combustible material. 

 

  • Lithium batteries store a lot of energy in a small amount of space. When that energy is released in an uncontrolled manner, it generates heat, which can turn certain internal battery components into flammable and toxic gases.

 

  • They have highly reactive components.

 

  • They are structured like all batteries – two electrodes are separated by an electrolyte. In the lithium battery, the electrolyte is a solution of reactive lithium salts and organic solvents. An electrical charge is transferred from a lithium metal cathode through the electrolyte to a carbon anode. And as with most batteries, the process pressurizes the contents.  

 

  • They are volatile when damaged.

 

  • They have stray ions moving between the electrodes that can create microfibers called dendrites. If a dendrite punctures the thin separators keeping the battery elements separate, an internal short-circuit can spark the lithium. If a dendrite punctures the external part of the battery, the lithium reacts with water in the air, generating heat and the possibility of fire. The battery can also overheat, creating a thermal runaway and causing an explosion.

 

Determining The Type Of Fire

 

Not all fires are the same—but if you're reading this blog, you probably already know that. Of the 5 classes of fires (A, B, C, D, K), most people would probably guess either Class C (electrical), and that's not entirely wrong. Lithium Battery is usually a "disposable, non-rechargeable" type of battery, the main content of which is lithium metal. If a fire breaks out, it is classified as a Class D metal fire, and a metal fire extinguisher targeting lithium metal must be used to extinguish the fire.

 

What To Do If Lithium Batteries Catch Fire?

 

Small lithium-ion batteries can be doused with water because they contain little lithium metal. Lithium-metal battery fires can be put out with a Class D fire extinguisher.

 

Larger battery fires are best handled with a foam extinguisher, CO2, ABC dry chemical, powder graphite, copper powder, or sodium carbonate.

 

If the fire can’t be extinguished, you’ll need to let it burn in a controlled way, dousing the surrounding area with water to prevent the fire from spreading.

 

If you have a battery pack, each cell may burn on a different timetable when hot, so place the pack outside until it completely burns out.

 

You have a safer choice for home and commercial power storage — redox flow batteries. Leading the industry are vanadium options made with a non-flammable electrolyte solution.

 

Mitigating Risks Of Lithium Battery Fires

 

With a surge in lithium battery fires, safeguarding your workplace is crucial. Understanding prevention and effective fire extinguishing methods is paramount to ensure safety and uninterrupted operations. While having safety protocols in place remains important, collaborating with a seasoned fire protection company is key. This partnership ensures access to the appropriate fire extinguisher type capable of swiftly quelling a lithium battery fire.

 

ACE Battery is committed to becoming a global leader in clean energy with digital and intelligent solutions and services, ushering in the global energy transition.

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