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Thread: explosion when charging li-ion cell, Universal Smart charger set on wrong voltage

  1. #31
    Flashaholic* AndyTiedye's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Cautionary Tale

    That charger is really made for charging battery PACKS (which are supposed to have their own protection).
    It obviously has no way of balancing the charge, so the cells had better be well-matched.

  2. #32
    Flashaholic* jimjones3630's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Cautionary Tale

    Glad to hear you are ok. Sounds like the kind of mistake that anyone of us could make.

    Maybe built in charger protection should or should not be required. If so, the cost will certainly be passed on to the buyer.

    If not, I'm certainly going to pay attention when I charge my unprotected cells in what's probably the same charger you have.

    As pilots say any landing is a good one, maybe any story you live to tell is a good one aswell. Jim

  3. #33
    Retired Administrator Norm's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Cautionary Tale

    Quote Originally Posted by AndyTiedye
    That charger is really made for charging battery PACKS (which are supposed to have their own protection).
    It obviously has no way of balancing the charge, so the cells had better be well-matched.
    I can be used to charge a single cell otherwise what's the use of the single cell setting. I'm inbetween chargers I just sold my DSD and am waiting on an UltraFire charger.
    Norm

  4. #34
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    Default Re: A Cautionary Tale

    Hello David,

    The way that charger works is that it raises whatever is connected to it to whatever voltage you select.

    If you select 1 battery, it raises the voltage to 4.2 volts. If you select 2 batteries, it wants to raise the voltage up to 8,4 volts, and so on.

    The connection is made because you hook the + lead to the + of the battery(s) and the - lead to the - of the batterie(s). Unlike your Christmas tree light example, when the battery is hooked up it completes the circuit.

    If you hook up an Alkaline cell, it will try to raise the voltage of the cell up to 4.2 volts times the number of cells that you have selected. If you hook up a NiMh or NiCd cell it will try to raise the voltage of the cell up to 4.2 volts times the number of cells you have selected. It is "smart" because it doesn't exceed 4.2 volts/cell, but you have to select the right number of cells and make sure you are charging the correct chemistry.

    Some RC chargers (like the Schulze, Triton, and ICE) have a voltage check that sounds an alarm if the voltages don't match up. If I try to charge an over discharged Li-Ion cell on my Schulze, I get a under voltage warning, and the charge will not start. If I try to charge a NiMh cell using the Li-Ion setting, the alarm sounds and the charger shuts down. However, I have to select the right number of cells while I am setting up the charge. Chargers that automatically select the number of cells that you are charging have to be closely watched to make sure they get it right.

    Tom
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    Most batteries don't die - they are tortured to near death, then murdered...

  5. #35
    Flashaholic* AndyTiedye's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Cautionary Tale

    That does suggest that this "Universal Smart Charger" makes no attempt to avoid
    charging an over-discharged battery or battery pack. Li Ions can explode if they
    are charged after being run down too far.

    If this charger had such protection, and you put in a single Lion cell on the 8.4v setting
    it would refuse to charge it, because if it really WAS a 2-cell pack, it should never
    have been discharged to a total voltage of 3 or 4 volts, and a properly-designed
    charger should detect that.

    I think this charger has earned a big fat JEER.
    Last edited by AndyTiedye; 02-08-2007 at 12:08 AM.

  6. #36
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    Default Re: A Cautionary Tale

    The connection is made because you hook the + lead to the + of the battery(s) and the - lead to the - of the batterie(s). Unlike your Christmas tree light example, when the battery is hooked up it completes the circuit.
    So you are saying that there is not an individual slot for each battery but a single, long slot that somehow adapts to many different lengths of batteries? Is it spring loaded? It must be a very long spring! I would like to see a photo of this mechanism.

    But then you say that "you hook the + lead to the + of the battery(s) and the - lead to the - of the batterie(s). ". This is a description of a parallel connection.

  7. #37
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    Default Re: A Cautionary Tale

    norm, is there anyway you could post a better picture identifying charger?

    do you have the link of where you purchased charger and cell?

    what brand is the 14500 cell? bare or protected?

    I understand Silver's explanation of why it happened, but don't understand why this design was allowed to be sold. did instructions specifically warn this would happen. if you selected wrong settings?

    some type of safety should have been built-in to prevent user error. if charger was designed to charge li-ion. it's not if this is going to happen? it's more like when...

    my triton will not allow this to happen, regardless of user settings.
    this goes for any other charger I've used.

    awhile back there was a Chinese two cell li-ion charger that would catch on fire. would not damage cell, but charger would be destroyed.

  8. #38

    Default Re: A Cautionary Tale

    Is the toxic danger in a lithium ion cell the same as a primary CR123A? Do they have similar chemistries? Do they vent the same poisons when they burn?

    HF is bad stuff. I read the other threads about the primaries, is the HF danger the same with the rechargeable?

  9. #39
    Flashaholic cdosrun's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Cautionary Tale

    The charger has no slot, it simply has two wires coming out to connect to the cells. It is designed to charge packs (whther they have one or more cells) and are therefore connected by a lead. I presume the OP had a couple of leads with magnets on them to connect the cell up to the charger.

    I believe the term 'smart' is used with the charger to indicate the it has end of charge termination, over current (short circuit) protection etc. I think it is an easy mistake to make and serves to highlight the care required in handling unprotected Li-ion cells. With this sort of setup, it would also be very easy to connect the cell in reverse (although I believe the charger in use here has reverse-polarity protection). As with the other posters, I am glad that only equipment was damaged (no people).

    Andrew

  10. #40
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    Default Re: A Cautionary Tale

    title needs to changed to reflect exact charger responsible for this failure. other owners and seller of this exact charger needs to be warned.

    you would think that PTC device inside cell would have reacted to high temps and shut down current going in. unless high temps needed to activate PTC was reached after thermal runaway had already occurred.

  11. #41
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    Default Re: A Cautionary Tale

    Hello David,

    Sorry for any confusion...

    Here is what mine looks like. This is an improved model that automatically selects the the number of cells. Mine has a slider switch that requires you to do this manually.

    Mine is also different in that it charges at 500 mA.

    It actually does a good job of charging, but you have to remember to set the right cell count.

    Tom
    Behind every Great man there's always a woman rolling her eyes...

    Most batteries don't die - they are tortured to near death, then murdered...

  12. #42
    Flashaholic* Bob_G's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Cautionary Tale

    Barton,

    This pdf is a fun, easy read to see how people for whom these things are important view them. It looks like overcharging is the main concern. It says there's a chemical released that reacts with water to form HF, but that's as far as it goes. Chemical reactions happen so fast, and are self perpetuating to some extent, forming new molecules that then have their own reactions and such, that I hope someone that understands chemistry well enough will answer your question
    There is but one life.
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  13. #43
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    Default Re: A Cautionary Tale

    IMHO this charger should not be sold without proper warnings. ALL owners of this charger should be warned. especially now that real dangers of using is documented.

    there's a 99% chance of someone using the wrong setting at some point.

    Pila's will self terminate a charge. otherwise bare li-ion cell will accept current for long as you deliver it. li-ion cells when overcharged above 4.35 volts? or so may go into thermal runaway. at that point PTC shutting down 500 milliamps will do little to stop venting with flames.

    http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/521.html

    Quote Originally Posted by Norm
    This morning without thinking I put a 14500 on to charge (universal smart charger), I didn't check the switch setting, I was going about my business in the office when there was a very loud explosion, about as loud as a large fire cracker, I smelt carpet burning and my wife came into see if I was still alive. I had without thinking put the battery on to charge with the charger set to the two cell setting. Right now I'm about halfway through cleaning up the mess, the batteries internals were spread all over the room. The battery must have ruptured at the positive end as the wall in that direction is just covered with black crap, the battery casing took off in the negative facing direction leaving quite a dent in the wall..


    Burnt carpet


    The battery was sitting on another charger


    Some of the black crap


    Dent in the wall


  14. #44
    Retired Administrator Norm's Avatar
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    Mpr Re: A Cautionary Tale

    Quote Originally Posted by cy
    title needs to changed to reflect exact charger responsible for this failure. other owners and seller of this exact charger needs to be warned.
    Title changed at Cy's request.
    Norm

  15. #45
    Flashaholic* Lips's Avatar
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    Default Re: Extra care required when using the Multicurrent Lithium Universal Fast Smart Charger

    QUOTE=cy

    don't think protected cell will help. since current is delivered at low current (500 milliamps?) depending upon cell, it may have high current discharge, low voltage and high temp (PTC) protection.


    Pila's are the only exception I'm aware of that will self terminate a charge. otherwise li-ion cell will accept current for long as you deliver it. li-ion cells when overcharged above 4.75 volts? or so may go into thermal runaway. at that point PTC shutting down 500 milliamps will do little to stop venting with flames.


    3rd attemp to post


    This charger is sold at most of the battery e-stores I've seen online with a warning to put a protection circuit on the battery before charging. Most people probably gloss over it like I did. I use it about every day but it's a good thing to point out to new users to be carefull with unprotected batteries. (All batteries!)


    I did a test with AW's newest protected bateries.

    1 x 3.7v RCR123


    Set the charger to 8.4v


    Red light came on for two seconds and then turned green. The cells protection must have kicked in because the charger would not charge the cell past the current voltage (My Results Only…)


    An unprotected cell I did the other day went to 4.36v where I manually stopped the charge…


    Cheers

  16. #46
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    Default Re: Extra care required when using the Multicurrent Lithium Universal Fast Smart Char

    lips, great info!

    seems AW's new protected R123 cells have overcharge protection too.
    so far pila's and this new gen AW protected cell has overcharge protection built in.

    does anyone else know if any other protected li-ion cells with built in overcharge protection?

    I still maintain ALL purchasers of this Universal Smart Charger with manual switch needs to be warned of dangers of charging with wrong voltage setting.

    can you post a link to seller with this exact charger?

  17. #47
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    Default Re: Extra care required when using the Multicurrent Lithium Universal Fast Smart Char

    sure wonder if current cpf buyers of this same "intelligent" charger know of this thread?

    Norm, is this the charger that caused fire in this thread?
    http://candlepowerforums.com/vb/showthread.php?t=117653

  18. #48
    Flashaholic dca2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Extra care required when using the Multicurrent Lithium Universal Fast Smart Char

    Quote Originally Posted by cy
    sure wonder if current cpf buyers of this same "intelligent" charger know of this thread?

    Norm, is this the charger that caused fire in this thread?
    http://candlepowerforums.com/vb/showthread.php?t=117653
    I have that charger (mine has the inline fuse) and use it to charge my Mag85 battery pack. I have 9 unprotected 14500's in 3 series of 3. Tell me if my math is right--that equals 11.1v so I should have it set to 12.6v, the third setting? It is on my desk at school and I don't really want to blow up the 7th graders in the front row--might move it to the back row where all the bad kids sit.

    Dave
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  19. #49
    Flashaholic ProofTech's Avatar
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    Default Re: Extra care required when using the Multicurrent Lithium Universal Fast Smart Char

    Quote Originally Posted by cy
    lips, great info!

    seems AW's new protected R123 cells have overcharge protection too.
    so far pila's and this new gen AW protected cell has overcharge protection built in.

    does anyone else know if any other protected li-ion cells with built in overcharge protection?
    Wolf Eyes cells have overcharge protection.

  20. #50
    *Flashaholic* LuxLuthor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Extra care required when using the Multicurrent Lithium Universal Fast Smart Char

    I sent Alin a PM since it is his GB thread....about reading this thread. If I posted a link to this in his GB thread, I would have another 20 million lemmings starting another jeers thread for me trying to be helpful.

  21. #51
    *Flashaholic* LuxLuthor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Extra care required when using the Multicurrent Lithium Universal Fast Smart Char

    Quote Originally Posted by dca2
    I have that charger (mine has the inline fuse) and use it to charge my Mag85 battery pack. I have 9 unprotected 14500's in 3 series of 3. Tell me if my math is right--that equals 11.1v so I should have it set to 12.6v, the third setting?
    That is correct....but I still think it is crazy to put this in a classroom...especially using unprotected cells.

  22. #52
    Flashaholic dca2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Extra care required when using the Multicurrent Lithium Universal Fast Smart Char

    Quote Originally Posted by LuxLuthor
    That is correct....but I still think it is crazy to put this in a classroom...especially using unprotected cells.
    Find the humor Lux, I know you posted after midnight
    Don't force it...use a bigger hammer.

  23. #53
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    Default explosion occurred, charging li-ion cell w/ Universal Smart charger on wrong voltage

    title of this thread needs to be changed to reflect what actually happen. which is:

    explosion occurred when charging li-ion cell with Universal Smart charger on wrong voltage setting

  24. #54
    *Flashaholic* LuxLuthor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Extra care required when using the Multicurrent Lithium Universal Fast Smart Char

    Check out the actual videos I just posted in the other thread showing how deadly these batteries can be....and basically if it catches fire in a pack which is what I have been using my universal charger for, each cell rupture/fire gets worse than the last. Basically, one of these types of fires shown in videos will take down your home.

    I honestly did not fully understand the dangers, and how to properly charge my Li-Ion batteries and packs until reading for several hours on the RC forums, and seeing these videos. IMHO, Alin should pull this Lithium charger for all the reasons I posted about in this post.

    I have seen too many questions about what people should be setting it on when having various packs (typically FM's) in parallel or serial, such as this light with 2-P of 4-S.

    I also just realized tonight that there is no way to load balance the typical FM battery packs, because in typical Radio Controlled Lipo packs, they have a "tap" wire separately connected to each cell in the pack...which gives the capability to individually monitored and charge with specific voltage delivered to each cell in case one has a higher Voltage than another.

    In Alins' setup...or even using a Schultze or my Hyperion charger applied to the same FiveMega pack, they also have no way to determine if one cell has a lower voltage, and another one higher....leading to a low overall pack voltage....and over applying charge to that already high voltage cell.
    Last edited by LuxLuthor; 03-16-2007 at 03:44 AM.

  25. #55
    Retired Administrator Norm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Extra care required when using the Multicurrent Lithium Universal Fast Smart Charger

    I agree with LuxLuthor, after the accident I had, I'm sure that if you left one of these chargers unattended and set incorrectly you could easily burn your house down. I haven't used this charger again.
    Norm

  26. #56
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    Default Re: Extra care required when using the Multicurrent Lithium Universal Fast Smart Char

    since you are the originator of this thread and only you can edit the title.

    currently it reads just to take extra care when using this "smart" charger.

    "explosion occurred when charging li-ion cell with Universal Smart charger on wrong voltage setting"

    is above more accurate?

    "Dumb" charger is more like it, if this charger can burn down your house with wrong voltage setting.

    a lot of folks only read the title and don't realize what's actually happened.

    don't get me wrong you can also cause li-ion cells to overcharge with other chargers, (leading to venting with flames) but there are safeties built-in to notify you a setting is wrong.

    Quote Originally Posted by Norm
    I agree with LuxLuthor, after the accident I had, I'm sure that if you left one of these chargers unattended and set incorrectly you could easily burn your house down. I haven't used this charger again.
    Norm

  27. #57
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    Default Re: Extra care required when using the Multicurrent Lithium Universal Fast Smart Char

    Quote Originally Posted by cy
    since you are the originator of this thread and only you can edit the title.

    currently it reads just to take extra care when using this "smart" charger.

    "explosion occurred when charging li-ion cell with Universal Smart charger on wrong voltage setting"

    is above more accurate?

    "Dumb" charger is more like it, if this charger can burn down your house with wrong voltage setting.

    a lot of folks only read the title and don't realize what's actually happened.

    don't get me wrong you can also cause li-ion cells to overcharge with other chargers, (leading to venting with flames) but there are safeties built-in to notify you a setting is wrong.
    I'm using a similar charger I purchased trough ebay with two DIY Li-ion (with prot PCB) packs. No problems whatsoever, this charger is meant to charge PACKS and the user should make sure every pack he has is properly protected. Even if it has a single cell setting, this is meant for packs (or a single cell) in parralel, which also should have protection. I don't really get the commotion (well, not completely, you guys do have a point), if you use common sense and the necessary precautions nothing will happen. If you really dont trust it, just charge the cells somewhere outside inside a metal container.

  28. #58
    *Flashaholic* LuxLuthor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Extra care required when using the Multicurrent Lithium Universal Fast Smart Char

    Quote Originally Posted by Brum
    I'm using a similar charger I purchased trough ebay with two DIY Li-ion (with prot PCB) packs. No problems whatsoever, this charger is meant to charge PACKS and the user should make sure every pack he has is properly protected. Even if it has a single cell setting, this is meant for packs (or a single cell) in parralel, which also should have protection. I don't really get the commotion (well, not completely, you guys do have a point), if you use common sense and the necessary precautions nothing will happen. If you really dont trust it, just charge the cells somewhere outside inside a metal container.
    That is exactly the problem....people don't "get the commotion," and assume that using it to charge a Lithium battery pack that does not read the individual cell voltages is perfectly fine. It is not fine, nor is it safe.

    I also do not believe the added battery cell protection circuit gives adequate protection, given the magnitude of damage that can be caused by these cells. Watch the videos to see how violent and dangerous the explosions are. Has anyone looked at these battery protection circuits if the battery is dropped, or over-tightened and perhaps crushed in a FM type battery pack? Have they been tested for possible shorts developing from a multitude of causes?

    On top of the inherent battery risk, this charger in particular is very poorly designed, given the danger of Lithium explosion fires. Look at the more detailed image where the cell selection switch numbers are very small and hard to read, and there is not a distinctive slot with the slider to make sure you are on the correct number of cells. With the added list of battery cell voltage to the left, it is a confusing and dangerous charger.



    At the likely risk of getting a JEER against me, I just posted a warning about these chargers in Alin's GB thread. I realize some people will be upset, but I see this as a matter of public safety.



    .
    Last edited by LuxLuthor; 03-16-2007 at 04:59 PM.

  29. #59

    Default Re: Extra care required when using the Multicurrent Lithium Universal Fast Smart Char

    Big thanks to Norm for making the unaware, aware of the safety issues surrounding unprotected lithium ion batteries. There are safe procedures that must be taken with ALL these cells no matter the capacity. Much respect to Norm for being clear that he set the charger incorrectly, we all could learn from that.

    But frankly I dislike the tone this very informative thread has taken on. I think people are now starting to use this thread to settle personal scores and malign certain posters. It really leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    CPF (unlike a few forums I frequent) is filled with such wonderfully helpful and well intentioned people. Its such a turnoff to see such pettiness on the part of a few ruin the experience. Its so sad to see posters pretend they don't know what is being discussed (asking questions they already know the answer to) in order to hide their intentions.

    I hate to see this side of CPF.

  30. #60

    Default Re: Extra care required when using the Multicurrent Lithium Universal Fast Smart Char

    BTW has anyone had this charger malfunction at all when it was properly used?

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