October 11, 2012
R. Thomas Long, PE and Michael Kahn, PhD from Exponent's Thermal Sciences practice recently published an article in Fire Protection Engineering on Li-Ion Battery Hazards which provides a brief overview of research to-date related to storage of Li-ion batteries and fire protection. Our investigation was done for The Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF). The text of the paper can be found here.
Lithium-ion (Li-ion) has become the dominant rechargeable battery chemistry for consumer electronics devices (e.g., smart phones and notebook computers) and is poised to become commonplace for industrial, transportation, and power-storage applications. Li-ion battery chemistry is different from previously popular rechargeable battery chemistries ( e.g., nickel metal hydride [NiMH], nickel cadmium [NiCad], and lead acid) in a number of ways. From a technological standpoint, because of high energy density, Li-ion technology has enabled entire families of portable devices, such as smart phones. From a safety and fire protection standpoint, a high energy density coupled with a flammable organic, rather than traditional aqueous electrolyte, has created a number of new fire protection challenges. Specific challenges include the design of batteries containing Li-ion cells, the storage and handling of these batteries, and challenges in determining the best response to suppress and control fires involving Li-ion batteries.
About the FPRF Program
In 2011, the Foundation conducted a hazard and use assessment of these batteries, with a focus on developing information to inform fire protection strategies in storage. Since that time, the Foundation has conducted a survey of storage practices and developed a multi-phase research strategy. The objective of this program phase is to provide a comparative flammability characterization of common lithium ion batteries to standard commodities in storage.