PRIMARY LITHIUM BATTERY FIRES: FAA Mandates Two Different Methods

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brightnorm

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As a CPF member and fairly frequent flyer I knew that Li-ON fires could be extinguished by an ordinary ABC extinguisher, but lithium primary (lithium metal) fires could only be extinguished by a class D (metal powder especially nickel) extinguisher. Since commercial aircraft only carry “ordinary” cabin fire extinguishers I found this disturbing because it meant that a lithium primary passenger cabin fire could not be put out.
http://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Aircraft_Fire_Extinguishing_Systems


Then I came across these two different Faa statements


Halon for “Small number” of Lithium Primaries
http://www.faa.gov/other_visit/aviation_industry/airline_operators/airline_safety/safo/all_safos/media/2009/SAFO09013SUP.pdf


Halon NOT for “Bulk” Lithium Primaries
http://www.avweb.com/avwebflash/news/FAA_lithium_battery_safety_alert_fire_cargo_UPS_crash_203408-1.html

As home users of Lithium primaries as well as Li-ONs should we now use regular ABC extinguishers (plus water) on any lithium fire regardless of battery type?

Brightnorm
 
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jh333233

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Yeah...when you use
CO2: Redox occurs, CO2 provides oxygen for lithium to burn, then carbon burns
Water: Redox occurs again, H2O oxidize lithium
Foam: Well, contain water
 
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brightnorm

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So, what extinguisher would you use on a primary lithium fire in your home (God forbid).

Brightnorm
 

mattheww50

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So, what extinguisher would you use on a primary lithium fire in your home (God forbid).

Brightnorm

You would need a class D extinquisher, and they are both large, and expensive. Class D typically uses Sodium Chloride (that's right, table salt) as the extinguishing agent.
A typical 30 pound extinguisher is about $350...
 

CKOD

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Nothing wrong with water. Sure it may react with metallic lithium, but its a little battery the size of your thumb vs an extinguisher with 1-5 gallons of water in it. You have more then enough to suppress it long enough for the fire to become significantly less exciting. If you have a burning CR123 on the floor, and an water extinguisher handy, vs running for baking soda/salt in the kitchen, its probably a good idea to hit it with the water extinguisher instead of wasting time letting other stuff catch on fire (that a water extinguisher would suppress just fine) while you run to the kitchen to play chemist.
 

jh333233

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Sand is similar to CO2, since lithium has a highest ECS while the sand(SiO2 have a lower one)
redox still occurs.
to stop lithium fire the ONLY WAY
is to use inert chemical to block the oxygen

Halon( Haloalkane)
is stable to heat since the X-C bond is quite strong(X denotes halogen, excluding iodine)
it is less likely to be broken by heat
so they can isolate the metal and air thus to put out the fire
 
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jh333233

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Nothing wrong with water. Sure it may react with metallic lithium, but its a little battery the size of your thumb vs an extinguisher with 1-5 gallons of water in it. You have more then enough to suppress it long enough for the fire to become significantly less exciting. If you have a burning CR123 on the floor, and an water extinguisher handy, vs running for baking soda/salt in the kitchen, its probably a good idea to hit it with the water extinguisher instead of wasting time letting other stuff catch on fire (that a water extinguisher would suppress just fine) while you run to the kitchen to play chemist.

1. Unreacted Li metal STILL reacts with water no matter how many you put, as the reaction DOESNT involve air.
2. Baking soda is CARBONATE, heat decomposite it and release CO2 which allows lithium reduction occurs.
3. From 1, we can know that it is not a good idea as LiOH is formed which is CORROSIVE

Further more, thats why planes only have halon as fire extinguisher
since
Al can react with CO2 in high temperature
H2O, Foam: well, i forgot why.
 
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SilverFox

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Hello Brightnorm,

In your home I believe the idea is not to extinguish the lithium fire from a single cell, but to contain it and keep it from spreading.

This is usually not much of an issue with the cells in a light, but a box of 50 cells can burn "hotter," and if you have several boxes of 50, things can get out of hand. The testing I have seen has shown that when a box of blister packed cells is checked by heating a single pack up, the fire self extinguishes because there isn't enough heat transfer to heat the cells in the next blister pack high enough to set the cell off.

However, in a 50 pack the cells are right next to each other and the whole 50 cells will go off one after another. In this case the burning cell is close enough to the next cell to heat it up to a point where it burns too.

There was some discussion about changing the packaging, but the final ruling came down to determining the amount of lithium present in the cells and limiting that.

At home it is safer to store cells separate from one another, and if you have 50 packs, to store them separate from each other. If you had 20 cartons of 50 cells each stored in a closet and your house caught on fire, you would end up with a very hot closet.

An ideal way to store cells, and probably the safest, is to store them in flashlights... :)

Tom
 

CKOD

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1. Unreacted Li metal STILL reacts with water no matter how many you put, as the reaction DOESNT involve air.
We agree on this point. But its not difficult to provide excess quantities of water for 1-2 cells. Especially if the cell vented normally(not top off, metal foil confetti everywhere) , and the available surface area of metallic is limited. Once the flames are suppressed, the battery can be transported to a safe location to let it do its thing.
2. Baking soda is CARBONATE, heat decomposite it and release CO2 which allows lithium reduction occurs.
Good point, all the more reason to not play chemist and run to the kitchen looking for various white powders wondering if you can use them to put out fires. Baking soda is suggested for grease fires, and could seem like a good idea in a panic/rush
3. From 1, we can know that it is not a good idea as LiOH is formed which is CORROSIVE
I'd rather some aqueous LiOH to clean up then a burned down room while I try and find salt or sand or dirt to pile on it. ;)

Further more, thats why planes only have halon as fire extinguisher
since
Al can react with CO2 in high temperature
H2O, Foam: well, i forgot why.

I wasnt addressing the plane portion of the links, I was addressing the last sentence in brightnorm's post regarding home users. Guess I should have thrown a quote or two in the post :ohgeez: Though if someone was being pretty proactive, a class D extinguisher would be good, or a fire resistant storage storage area.
 
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brightnorm

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...An ideal way to store cells, and probably the safest, is to store them in flashlights... :)

Tom
Thanks Tom. For your personal home use, assuming the unlikely event of a lithium primary fire involving a "small number" of cells (as mentioned in one of those links), what kind of extinguisher would you have/prefer?

Brightnorm
 

SilverFox

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Hello Brightnorm,

I just have the ABC extinguishers, but I store my "bulk" CR123 cells in a military ammo box. I made a cover for the box from some silicone cookie sheets, and the box sits on a piece of tile.

If a cell broke down and started a fire, the fire would be somewhat contained within my box. If the house caught fire, the cells in the box would be somewhat protected by the box and the silicone sheets.

It is not a perfect set up, but I do sleep soundly at night.

Tom
 

FreeMagenta

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Do not use water (even in large amounts) because relased hydrogen can mix wit air and explode violently. Sand is quite safe - even if the reaction is sustained for a moment its products are solid, so after a while fire will be extinguished.
 

jh333233

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This YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vS6KA_Si-m8) produced by the FAA recommends a water extinguisher as the preferred method for putting out a lithium battery fire.
Be reminded that Li-ion is different from Li battery
Li-ion dont have metal lithium which reacts with water.
Instead, li-ion uses ionic compound(salts) of lithium as electrolyte
Two different cases
Btw, li-ion is more dangerous than li-metal battery
Explosion of li-ion(KaBOOOM!) is far more vigorous than li-metal battery(react steadily with water)
 
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WoodMan

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Be reminded that Li-ion is different from Li battery
Li-ion dont have metal lithium which reacts with water.
Instead, li-ion uses ionic compound(salts) of lithium as electrolyte
Two different cases
Btw, li-ion is more dangerous than li-metal battery
Explosion of li-ion(KaBOOOM!) is far more vigorous than li-metal battery(react steadily with water)

The video shows laptop battery fires being put out with water as the extinguisher. AFAIK, laptop battery packs are virtually always li-ion with several unprotected cells inside (although protection is provided by means other than protecting individual cells, of course). Obviously a li-ion laptop battery pack with several cells inside has far more potential fire hazard than a flashlight with only one or two cells inside. Yet the FAA is recommending water as the preferred extinguisher for inflight battery fires. I think that it is unlikely that either flight crew or passengers are going to be able to distinguish between li-ion or primary lithium batteries fires in an inflight emergency.
 
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jh333233

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Its ok to use water on a far-more-danger thing it doesnt mean that you can use it on a relative safer thing
I wont debate with you on this topic, just to point out where you made a mistake
 

LuxLuthor

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If you have a box of Li primary that are about to burn, or burning...the only intelligent thing to do is hold your breath while leaving the area. Lithium cobalt ion are also a serious problem with the burning temp and fumes, and I doubt I would stand there spraying them with an ABC extinguisher. My management strategy is to keep all the batteries stored in a separate outdoors metal (heated) storage shed which has a concrete foundation and an electric door opener. It's kind of amazing that you don't hear about many of these types of fires.
 
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