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Lithium-ion battery risks – part 1

Lithium-ion battery risks – part 1


What’s the deal with lithium-ion batteries and risk in planes? Lithium-ion batteries allow large
amounts of energy to be squeezed into a very small volume. And they allow that
energy to be extracted very fast. This is fantastic news for airlines
where lighter planes reduce environmental impact and increase
profits. But as Boeing are discovering in their 787 Dreamliner, these
benefits are not risk-free. To understand how lithium ion batteries
potentially cause harm and how this might be avoided, we really need to dig
into the science behind the technology. We’ll be doing this next week on Risk Bites. But for now, here are the risk highlights. The primary hazard in lithium-ion
batteries is the electrolyte – the stuff that the lithium ions move
through when the battery is charged and discharged. This often contains an organic solvent
that is corrosive and flammable. Fine when it’s sealed inside the battery. Not so fine if it gets out or gets hot – or both. Under the wrong conditions, this stuff
can cause problems through corrosion, fire, and explosion. These are the associated risks. But what are the wrong conditions that
transform this hazard into a risk? There are four things you can do to the
lithium ion battery that transform its inherent hazard into a tangible risk: you can mechanically abuse it. You could short circuit it. You can over-charge it. Or you can
heat it up. None of these are a good idea. Bashing the battery around, for instance,
increases the chances of a breach in the casing, leading to a release of corrosive
electrolyte. It could also lead to an internal short circuit. Short circuits in lithium-ion batteries – whether inside or outside – are bad news. They cause the battery to heat up fast as it
discharges. And the hotter it gets, the faster it heats up. When this happens the electrolyte vaporizes,
pressure builds up, and either flammable vapor is released, or the battery explodes. And if your overheating battery is next to
another one, the heat produced can possibly start a knock-on reaction. Internal short circuits can be caused by rough handling. But over-charging can also cause problems and turn a high-hazard but low-probability product into something you probably don’t want to hang around with for any length of time. The good news is that a lot of
technology goes into making lithium-ion batteries safe – and it’s getting better all the time. And even where the inherent hazard remains, it’s getting increasingly difficult to transform this into a
significant risk. But, as Boeing are finding out, high-hazard technologies need to be
handled carefully if they are to be used successfully in low-risk products. Next week, Risk Bites will be delving deeper into the science behind lithium-ion battery hazards and risks. So stay tuned, and stay safe.
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12 comments

And what percentage of the gross weight of a B-787 is that battery pack? The weight saving is hardly worth talking about.

My power bank battery has an hole on it..just a small hole…its a lithium rechargeable battery…can i still use it as a power bank or its not safe for me to use it??or i should buy a new one😂

*pleade answer me🙏

One of my pairs of "married" Sony VTC5a was accidentially stored for over a month partially discharged, and when charging them again I discovered that both of them showed a charge of 1.94-2.02 volts, well below the recommended minimum discharge level of 2.5 volts. I know you should not store discharged batteries for a longer period of time since they can be damaged. How safe are they to use again?

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