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Thread: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

  1. #1
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    Default Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    I had purchased a Turbo Charge cell phone charger about a week ago. http://www.turbocellcharge.com/
    Had no problems using with Nimh and Alkalines in this charger. It does get warm, but heard this was pretty normal. According to the products manual, lithiums are okay in this thing so I decided to give it a try. I put in a battery and connected to my phone. The battery capsule felt instantly very hot. Much more then in just normal operation. So, in under 20 seconds I quickly unscrewed the battery holder trying to avoid something much worse, and dumped out the battery on the table. It smelled of smoke and seemed to get even more unstable even out of the capsule. About 10 seconds later. A huge flame shoots out, and like a rocket it shot to the ceiling and bounced and started two small fires. one portion of the ( stuff inside ) landed on an cotton t-shirt by the laundry, that caught on fire. and the other on my wifes skirt. The battery itself melted my carpet. And a huge black stain remains. If it wasn't for the fire extinguisher, I don't think I would have a house. It was very hot and took the entire fire extinguisher to put out the fires.

    What the heck happened?





  2. #2

    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    Looks like another case of lithium ignition. You're really lucky the fire extinguisher did the trick--household extinguishers aren't very effective against metal fires.

    What was that cell? A 1.5v Lithium AA?

  3. #3

    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    Looks like a Battery Station 1.5v AA cell. I have these in a bunch of different lights.
    Last edited by Macaw; 06-11-2006 at 12:02 AM.
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    it was a battery station lithium AA cell

    Yes, I feel lucky it wasn't much worse

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    Ahh ohh!!!! Wow.... I don't know what to think now......

    frisco

  6. #6

    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    another Battery Station batt? this has gotta suck for them...
    http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/...d.php?t=120888

  7. #7
    *Flashaholic* greenLED's Avatar
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    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    Nevermind - I thought you were trying to charge the lithium batt.
    Last edited by greenLED; 06-11-2006 at 12:13 AM.

  8. #8
    Flashaholic* WNG's Avatar
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    Drool Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    Wow, glad to read you're OK. Could have been potentially worse. That's the 2nd lithium related explosion incident to be reported within this week.
    I think I'm forming an opinion on whether these cells are feasible in high current applications. Seems the slightest lack of quality control in construction results in a disaster.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    No, I wasn't charging the lithium AA battery. This device boosts the voltage of a AA battery to charge the cell phone battery. Check out http://www.turbocellcharge.com/

  10. #10

    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    Thank Goodness there is no injury. Hookoo's quick thinking in removing the battery from the charger probably save what could have been a more disastrous outcome.

    This is a first time I hear of primary AA lithium exploding. The battery must have short circuited in the turbo charger. Is the charger using a single cell or multi cells setup?

  11. #11

    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    Has anyone heard of any incidents of Energizer L91 AAs exploding or bursting into flame?

    The phone charger is a single cell device so reverse charging can be ruled out. If the charger shorted the battery and the PTC failed to trip, the cell would not have exploded after it was removed from the charger.

    Hookoo, can you test the charger with another battery (alkaline or nimh--no fires==good ) to verify that the electronics still work? If the charger electronics shorted out, the charger could have pushed power from the cell phone into the battery. This can be ruled out if the charger still works.

  12. #12
    *Flashaholic* Icebreak's Avatar
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    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    Possibly that device draws more current than the battery is designed to deliver.

    Be careful with those. I've got some that measure 1.90 Volts.
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  13. #13
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    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    Quote Originally Posted by enLIGHTenment
    Has anyone heard of any incidents of Energizer L91 AAs exploding or bursting into flame?

    The phone charger is a single cell device so reverse charging can be ruled out. If the charger shorted the battery and the PTC failed to trip, the cell would not have exploded after it was removed from the charger.

    Hookoo, can you test the charger with another battery (alkaline or nimh--no fires==good ) to verify that the electronics still work? If the charger electronics shorted out, the charger could have pushed power from the cell phone into the battery. This can be ruled out if the charger still works.

    Just tried it with a fresh alkaline. It still works and did not get unreasonably warm. I have a L91 energizer. Maybe I should try that under a controlled environment?

    Could you explain what a PTC is please.

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    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    Quote Originally Posted by hookoo
    Just tried it with a fresh alkaline. It still works and did not get unreasonably warm. I have a L91 energizer. Maybe I should try that under a controlled environment?
    I'm no expert here, but I would hold off on trying that. What exactly do you mean by controlled environment?
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  15. #15

    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    Quote Originally Posted by hookoo
    Just tried it with a fresh alkaline. It still works and did not get unreasonably warm. I have a L91 energizer.
    If it were me, I wouldn't risk it unless I had a way to set off the experiment from a distance--up wind--and all the equipment was fully contained inside an outdoor fireproof bunker. You really don't want a burning lithium cell to rocket away from the experiment and hit you in the face or start a wildfire.

    Could you explain what a PTC is please.
    It's a safety device, somwhat like a circuit breaker, in lithium batteries that shuts off the current if the battery is overloaded, shorted, or overheated.

  16. #16
    Flashaholic* Silviron's Avatar
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    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    Geeze, I have a drawer full of Batery Station lithium 123s and 1.5V AAs, and have them in several flashlights and several other devices including digital cameras..... And I was fixin' to order another batch of 123s because I have a bunch of 4X123 lights on the way

    All these bad occurences of late are on the verge of making me nervous.... I don't worry so much about stuff happening when I'm present; I can deal with that...(if it doesn't kill me right off)... but what about if I'm gone? I'd hate to run an errand and come back to a house burnt down and the whole forest on fire because of me.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    The 1.5 V lithium have a potential problem, due to a combination of chemical composition, and lack of proper sealing.

    - The Lithium - Iron disulfide battery has a "natural" voltage of 1.91 Volt, which is too high for any application requiring 1.5 Volt. In order to decrease the voltage of about 300 mV, a lithium iodine compound is added to the electrolyte.

    This chemical addition makes the electrolyte more critical to compose properly. The most common problem with the 1.5 Volt Lithium is the slow voltage raise when left in storage for few monts.
    A proper formulation for the 1.5 Volt lithium seems to be more "black art" rather than modern chemistry.
    This is because the most effective additives required to effectively decrease the voltage are the perchlorates, but they would transform the battery in a "pipe bomb", in the event of overheating or mechanical shock.
    Unproper formulation of the electrolyte in 1.5 Volt lithium batteries, if done with safety in mind, usually bring a series of problems as voltage raise over time, temporary voltage sag when the load is applied, and parasitic reactions that will kill the battery, while in storage, after few months from production.

    My educated guess for the exploded AA lithium battery is the following.
    The battery has raised its voltage too much, and it was hydrated (i.e. contained water in the carbon-Fe2S mixture, the black powder) due to a defective crimp seal.
    The high voltage voltage may have caused the DC-DC converter of the phone charger to draw more current, and that initiated the lithium-water reaction that is heat-generating and hydrogen generating.
    So, the flash point was reached and the battery exploded. At high temperatures, hydrogen can combine with FeS2 violently.

    Just my tought

    Anthony.

    EDITED: I typed MnO2 instead of FeS2.
    Last edited by Ray_of_Light; 06-11-2006 at 10:59 AM. Reason: Typo Error
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  18. #18
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    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    What is scary is, I was considering storing that same lithium battery in the device for traveling emergency's. What if the battery exploded on the plane this weekend? You would be seeing this on the news. There was nothing I could do once the thing became unstable. Just happened so fast. If It was left unattended, things woul've been much, much worse.
    Last edited by hookoo; 06-11-2006 at 08:27 AM.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    All this talk about battery mishaps has prompted me to do a little research. I brought home the "Handbook of Batteries" from work. This is a very good book, It is ISBN 0-07-037921-1, edited by David Linden (in case anyone wanted to know) This by no means makes me an authority.

    That said,
    Lithium-Iron Disulfide cells do not contain manganese dioxide. Lithium batteries as a rule do not have aqueous (water based) electrolytes as lithium reacts with water. They all contain organic solvents as the elecrolyte. If moisture get into any lithium chemistry battery, then yes, you will have hydrogen form and it will be a undesirable event. This is one reason why one doesn't use water on lithium or lithium battery fires.

    Unless someone can correct me here, Lithium batteries in normal use do not generate hydrogen gas as part of their reaction. I am specifically refering to Lithium-Thionyl chloride, Lithium-Iron Disulfide, and Lithium-Manganese Dioxide cells. Lithium Manganese dioxide is the chemistry used in the common 123 cell. it is 3v chemistry. Lithium-Iron Disulfide is the ~1.5v one we are discussing in this thead. Lithium-Thionyl chloride is the chemistry we use at my work, so that is why I've studied it.

    Also, it appears that most electrolytes used in lithium chemistries are themselves flammable.

    I believe tha hydrogen gas that gets mentioned is due to the fact that Alkaline batteries do produce hydrogen in normal use.

    Now, metallic lithium (which is used in lithium primary batteries) will produce hydrogen upon contact with water (actually the hydrogen comes from the water as it contacts lithium, producing lithium oxide and hydrogen gas)

    I'm not a chemist, so I invite anyone with better knowledge to correct me and elaborate on lithium chemistries.

    I'm sorry to hear about your incident Hookoo. I don't have any suggestions as to what happened.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    My GOD!! Most importantly I'm glad to hear your wife and you are intact if a bit rattled by this terrible incident, no injuries. I really hope you got changed the air in that room fast and didnt breathe any of that stuff any more than what was unavoidable. Also, HANDLE EVERYTHING WITH RUBBER GLOVES. Wash hands, face, arms,. any exposed skin with lots of water. Plastic bag the battery remnants. Send it to Kevin at Battery Station. Throw the tshirt it landed on away. Dont try cleaning it, just toss it.

    I had a Battery Station CR123 pair explode on me last Thursday and I got really sick (poisoned) from the smoke and wet charred crud from the batteries, handling with bare hands and not washing up thoroughly. I didnt take the warnings seriously. You know warning labels, they all sound like the end of the world, they have to, to insure the manufacturers are covered. I never expected to be puking my guts out 12 hours after, which stayed for 2 days. Skin rash all over my whole body, blood test found liver enzymes off the charts, erratic heartbeat, burning sensation in my throat and on my tongue. In my case it was mostly hydrofluoric acid vapor that has a significant delayed onset. It takes a while for the flourine to break off the acid in the body and free radical fluorine attacks many delicate chemical conversion processes in the body. For a burn as little as 2 percent of body surface area, HF can be lethal, shutting down the heart and lungs long after ingestion, no warning, no picnic!

    Thank God you had no direct injuries, I just hope you breathed an absolute minimum amount of the smoke and didnt handle the crud with bare hands. Basically, treat every surface or object the exploded battery touched like it was incredibly toxic, it does not hurt to go way overboard in this respect. Thats the most important thing I can offer you is that advice.

    Oh, Kevin (Batterystation).... Now I really feel terrible for this fellow. He took my accident so personally, I sensed it was in a way worse for him than me, since he was flooded with remorse that his product was involved. Its every seller's nightmare to have a product that inadvertently brings harm to the buyer(s). I think of airline company employees that get the detestable job of informing family members of passengers in the event of a serious crash. I'll bet they wish more than anything they could "un-do" the tragedy so as not to traumatize the families. Thats far more serious in nature than whats tearing Kevin up. But maybe you see my point. Its way late and I'm dozing off in front of my computer. I slept in the afternoon so now its insomnia theatre. Im slappy tired now but I just found this thread and cannot believe the coincidence. I can NOT believe THIS. I wish it were any other brand of battery for Kev's sake. One of the big concluding themes from my "explosion thread" is that real scrutiny should be targeted at multi-cell arrangements and insuring balance of charge and age for those lights that use more than 1 cell is critical for safety. There were a lot of folks wondering about single cell safety. Even I was nodding my head at the notion of "a one cell light would not have done this....". Now this incident has opened up a commercial kitchen size can of worms. Another primary cell, albeit lithium chemistry, but the ever so trustworthy double A cell size. All those years of standard alkaline cell sizing.... in my mind a double A battery is as benign as it gets. Not anymore.

    I find this cell phone battery charger a bit wonky if you ask me. Your cell phone is very likely a LiIon battery, which is crucial to have a proper charging regimen with the right equipment. i.e. factory charger. sounds like a nifty idea. but id bet a zillion dollars if you wrote a letter to the manufacturer of the cell phone and asked if they would approve of the use of your AA charger gizmo to charge their phone, the response would be "NO WAY NO HOW NOT NOW NOT EVER we cannot recommend anything beyond what has been approved and tested for use with the product by us and Underwriters Laboratories". Since LiIon batteries are so inherently dangerous when improperly charged, companies have no choice but to pay a ton of money for safety checking and a lot of times use proprietary pack shapes and weirdo connectors specifically so that you cant use a Nokia cigarette lighter plug slash rapid charger to charge up your Motorola phone. It drove me crazy at first, why the flipflop cant everyone agree on one standard plug size, with a fixed number of terminals and use that connector type for every rechargeable device. Worst of all laptops. Nineteen point five volt power supply with bizarro connector so your Dell Inspiron can only be charged and run with your factory issue Dell Inspiron power brick. After getting over the aggravation of the lack of a common standard, I realized it was because of lithium battery liability concerns. OTOH, gasoline is extremely dangerous, why not have different gas filler hole shapes for different model cars? OK now I know im slap happy tired and barely making any more sense. SO Ill sign off here... wishing you well. Please contact Kevin at BS about this and save the battery, but BAG IT!!!





    OMG, poor Kevin! I think he's going to check himself in to a hospital soon. This is going to give the poor fellow a heart attack with a huge stomach ulcer to follow. He's not getting any rest, as I envision him burning the midnight oil testing every cell in sight and running test to destruction experiments. When he hears of this.... my sympathies Kev!!
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  21. #21
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    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    Hello LunarModule, thanks for the kind words of warning. Half the house was covered in smoke. Smoke detectors all went off near by the incident. The t-shirt and skirt went up in flames so those were safely disposed, ruined unfortunately. The carpet is the worse part as it melted. Better then a burned down house though ! After reading what happened to you I wish I were more cautious in the handling of the battery and clean-up. I am very sorry you got sick from the incident. Get well soon !

    I donít want to point blame to the battery. However, I do feel that the battery should not of exploded like it did regardless of the charger. I would be more apt to think that the charger itself would be damaged by the battery then the other way around. But, I really donít know for sure.
    Last edited by hookoo; 06-11-2006 at 09:18 AM.

  22. #22

    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    Hookoo,
    More info on PTC.

    PTC stands for Positive Temperature Coeffecient. A PTC device is a form of resistor whose resistance changes with temperature. A resistor whose resistance changes greatly with temperature is usually called a thermistor. A PTC thermistor's resistance increases with temperature. As the temperature increases, the resistance gets much larger and this restricts the amount of current which flows through it. It is a simple safety device used on certain batteries.

    Now, an aside, there are also NTC devices, but these are not used in batteries. They are Negitive Temperature Coeffecient. Their resistance decreases with an increase of temperature. I only mention this so one undestands exactly what the positive in PTC means.

    Hope this helps.

  23. #23
    *Flashaholic* James S's Avatar
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    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    I think several things must go wrong to make something like this happen. The cell obviously did not vent as it was designed, but exploded.

    Does this charger thing crank down hard on the batteries? I have watched some devices of mine that are too tight and actually damage the battery top and potentially the venting and other stuff in there if you screw it all the way closed.

    I've used a LOT of these batteries from batterystation and haven't had any problem with them, but my uses are all pretty low current as these things go. But then I think this charger is pretty low current draw too. Just too much current being pulled shouldn't cause it to explode like that!
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  24. #24
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    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    I believe tha hydrogen gas that gets mentioned is due to the fact that Alkaline batteries do produce hydrogen in normal use.

    Now, metallic lithium (which is used in lithium primary batteries) will produce hydrogen upon contact with water (actually the hydrogen comes from the water as it contacts lithium, producing lithium oxide and hydrogen gas)
    Yeah, hydrogen gas is a problem with alkaline batteries but not with Li/MnO2 or Li/FeS2 batteries. I don't think that there was any hydrogen gas involved in causing the explosive venting events recently described with 123 and Li-AA cells.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    I really hope you got changed the air in that room fast and didnt breathe any of that stuff any more than what was unavoidable. Also, HANDLE EVERYTHING WITH RUBBER GLOVES. Wash hands, face, arms,. any exposed skin with lots of water. Plastic bag the battery remnants. Send it to Kevin at Battery Station. Throw the tshirt it landed on away. Dont try cleaning it, just toss it.

    I had a Battery Station CR123 pair explode on me last Thursday and I got really sick (poisoned) from the smoke and wet charred crud from the batteries, handling with bare hands and not washing up thoroughly. I didnt take the warnings seriously. You know warning labels, they all sound like the end of the world, they have to, to insure the manufacturers are covered. I never expected to be puking my guts out 12 hours after, which stayed for 2 days. Skin rash all over my whole body, blood test found liver enzymes off the charts, erratic heartbeat, burning sensation in my throat and on my tongue. In my case it was mostly hydrofluoric acid vapor that has a significant delayed onset. It takes a while for the flourine to break off the acid in the body and free radical fluorine attacks many delicate chemical conversion processes in the body. For a burn as little as 2 percent of body surface area, HF can be lethal, shutting down the heart and lungs long after ingestion, no warning, no picnic!
    It is certainly good to take standard precautions such as using gloves but according to the Energizer Li-AA MSDS they do not contain any fluorides, if the same is true for the BatteryStation cells then HF exposure should not be a problem here.

  26. #26
    *Flashaholic* carrot's Avatar
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    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    Quote Originally Posted by David_Campen
    It is certainly good to take standard precautions such as using gloves but according to the Energizer Li-AA MSDS they do not contain any fluorides, if the same is true for the BatteryStation cells then HF exposure should not be a problem here.
    HF exposure may not be a problem but when handling any unknown chemical substances it is a prudent habit to take proper safety precautions. Besides, there are other by-products of catastrophic battery failure with Li-AA that, while not *as* dangerous as HF, are still bad for your health. Just don't take risks.
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  27. #27
    *Flashaholic* PhotonWrangler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    Holy cow! Glad that everyone is ok. What a scary event!

    I think you should report this to the Consumer Product Safety Commission at once. If the instructions indicate that such asn activity is OK, there could be many other explosions and/or fires happening.

  28. #28

    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    Jeepers - thank the stars you were there to put it out! Glad you are all okay.
    Scott N.

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    I'm thinking I need to buy a couple more fire extinguishers..

  30. #30

    Default Re: Primary Lithium battery explodes!

    Lithium fires require Class D Type 2 powdered copper extinguishers. Regular ABC extinguishers won't put out lithium; all they can do is put out whatever the lithium is burning on. If the lithium does not burn itself out before an ABC extinguisher is empty, you'll need another extinguisher (or more) to contain the flames.

    If an appropriate extinguisher is not available, a lithium fire can be smothered with dry sand.

    Do not use water on a lithium fire. It'll only make the problem worse.

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