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Thread: Working on Lithium-ion batteries while impaired...

  1. #1
    Flashaholic* Crazyeddiethefirst's Avatar
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    Default Working on Lithium-ion batteries while impaired...

    Please consider this thread a "reminder" that even people who are experienced and knowledgeable about Lithium-ion batteries and flashlights can sometimes be really stupid due to drugs(prescribed, recreational, and for this discussion alcohol, even though it did not play a part in this story), or other causes of impaired judgement: being way overtired, hypercaffinated(Red Bull syndrome), etc.

    Many of you are aware of some of my surgical challenges this last year, the removal & replacement of a titanium knee that wore out in less than 5 years, a new spinal column stimulator and most recently emergency surgery to remove an infected spinal column stimulator and spinal surgery. I am no stranger to high doses of the strongest pain meds legally available. Less than two weeks after this last surgery I was taking the highest doses I have taken yet thus far. Under my "normal" pain meds, I walk, talk, drive and do most things with no sign of impairment. Even on the higher doses, I appear "normal", but have opted not to drive out of the possibility of problems(when I was a young motorcyclist, I was in a head on collision with a drunk driver, and 42 years and 45 surgeries later I am still dealing with the consequences).
    Anyway, being home post-op, I have time to play with my collection of flashlights. Today I had three Novatac 120P's out and was experimenting with various lego applications, including 18350 & 18650 trials. I have two 18650 bodies that have matching knurling to the 120's, but are a generic grey. After successfully converting one light to 18650, I began on the second light. I felt "normal", not woozy, off balance, or in any way impaired. The spring for this body was mildly twisted and did not allow the easy insertion of the 18650 cell, an LG HE4. The cell and spring became lodged about half way in. In my "normal" state of mind, I would have been cognizant of the danger of a hi power Lithium-ion battery trapped in close proximity with an electrically conductive wire(the spring) in a tight pipe bomb like apparatus(the 18650 tube). So I would have found a non-conductive "spike" to remove it. Instead, I had another 18650 cell on hand and without thinking(obviously) proceeded to insert the second cell onto the only open end of the body tube. The instant heat, smell of smoke and burning flesh were my first indications something was amiss. Slowly, as the realization dawned that I had created my own infinitesimal Chernobyl began to dawn on me. My first thought was to get the cells outside and to not breath due to the nature of the hazardous fumes that could be released. At the same time, rather than leaving the two cells in contact to further melt down, so I desperately tried to pull the second cell out of the body tube. I was successful in pulling one cell out(causing burns to both hands instead of just one), and I quickly threw them outside on the back patio where I dumped cat sand on them as a final safety precaution. Once I am able, I will post photographs of the two cells. The burns, while painful, are not impressive enough for inclusion to the thread. Had I been slower to realize what was happening, I could have burned down the house, subjected myself or my zoo(3 cats, one dog) to inhalation of very toxic fumes. So in closing, if you are on pain meds, anxiety meds or even some blood pressure meds, be extra diligent. If over tired, over amped(Red Bull, Monster, 3 trips to Starbucks, etc, use extra caution, think through what you are doing and have a plan if things go south! I am embarrassed to have to share this, but if by chance it caused one person to keep from making a similar mistake, it was worth it!

    One interesting note: cell voltages after incident(and cells cooled off & cleaned up) were 4.09V on LG HE4 & 3.92V on the Sanyo NCR 18650GA. Both batteries are unprotected. Even if you can't fix stupid, you can fix impaired...

    Note the spiral pattern of the spring melted onto the red cell:

    https://i.imgur.com/s2nN739.jpg

    https://i.imgur.com/NkRPK6A.jpg

    https://i.imgur.com/p5sM9rQ.jpg
    Last edited by Crazyeddiethefirst; 08-11-2017 at 05:40 PM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Working on Lithium-ion batteries while impaired...

    Thanks for sharing your story and glad you're not seriously hurt crazy Eddie

  3. #3
    Flashaholic*
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    Default Re: Working on Lithium-ion batteries while impaired...

    Thank you for sharing this, and really happy it didn't turn out any worse than it did.

  4. #4
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    archimedes's Avatar
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    Default Re: Working on Lithium-ion batteries while impaired...

    Wow - important cautionary tale ... gotta move this to the " Smoke and Fire, Hot Cells and Close Calls - The dangerous side of batteries " subforum though

    ... thread moved ...
    ... is the archimedes peak

  5. #5

    Default Re: Working on Lithium-ion batteries while impaired...

    The "cat sand", "pipe bomb", and "Chernobyl" references made this oddly humorous to read!

    Thanks for sharing... a great reminder for all.

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    Default Re: Working on Lithium-ion batteries while impaired...

    Hello Crazyeddiethefirst,

    Thank you for this awareness.

    Good to hear you made it through with only minor damage. I really don't like close calls and prefer to avoid incidents, but as you illustrated it is sometimes hard to recognize the hazards.

    If I may state the obvious... be sure to repair or replace the damaged insulation on your cells...

    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...

  7. #7
    ven's Avatar
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    Default Re: Working on Lithium-ion batteries while impaired...

    Damn Eddie, glad your OK and nothing major happened. Thank you for your honesty and bringing you story to us all, to help remind us how easy things can get dangerous.

    For me, rushing or simply being tired are the two main causes for me making daft mistakes. Be it charging 4.2v cells to 4.35v to putting cells in the wrong way!

  8. #8
    Flashaholic* Crazyeddiethefirst's Avatar
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    Default Working on Lithium-ion batteries while impaired...

    Archimedes, thanks for the location change to the proper place. Silverfox, the LG HE4 was beyond salvage in my estimation-the actual metal case melted and was compromised-even though it was holding a current, I deemed $5 a small price to pay for life insurance in case it failed inside a flashlight. The Sanyo NCR 18650GA only had melted the insulation and everything else was intact, I replaced the wrapper and it is on the charger as I write this(cool to touch, charging normally). Thanks for all the great feedback!

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Working on Lithium-ion batteries while impaired...

    Quote Originally Posted by Crazyeddiethefirst View Post
    Archimedes, thanks for the location change to the proper place....
    Certainly, and fortunate that the damage was relatively limited. Glad things turned out ok.

    These reports are absolutely invaluable in raising awareness, thank you for sharing this here.
    ... is the archimedes peak

  10. #10
    Modernflame's Avatar
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    Default Re: Working on Lithium-ion batteries while impaired...

    Crazy Eddie! Having had an 18650 go nuclear in my living room, I appreciate your Chernobyl metaphor. Glad everyone is ok.
    “May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
    J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

  11. #11
    Flashaholic*
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    Default Re: Working on Lithium-ion batteries while impaired...

    I'm glad to hear it ended without an explosion. Recently being on strong pain medication myself (thankfully not anymore), I noticed similar impairment/lack of judgement after taking a dose. Now, one of my recent projects involves a large(ish) flooded VRLA lead acid battery bank system for emergency power. I made sure to keep away from the system during that time. Sure, it's fused properly but.....

  12. #12

    Default Re: Working on Lithium-ion batteries while impaired...

    Great reminders, and thanks for sharing!

  13. #13
    *Flashaholic* LuxLuthor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Working on Lithium-ion batteries while impaired...

    Thanks for reminding us of the dangers!

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