There are two types of lithium batteries in the market, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and disposable lithium cells. When it comes to rechargeable lithium-ion cells, the theory behind these batteries is explained in its chemical composition and functioning. Lithium ions tend to move from the negative electrode to the positive one during the discharge of the cells and vice versa during charging periods. These cells provide high energy densities and are used for a broad range of applications that require recharge capabilities. Lithium-ion batteries are best suitable because they can be recharged time after time.
Despite being named lithium-ion batteries, these cells contain no lithium metal in them but instead house lithium ions and highly flammable electrolytes in their composition. One can be accustomed to find this type of battery technology in laptops, smartphones, hospitals, electric vehicles and many other conventional electrical devices.
On the other hand, disposable lithium batteries contain lithium metal in their chemical composition or in some other cases lithium compounds as an anode. These batteries are designed for single-use and thus incapable of being recharged because they contain lithium metal, which is very combustible. They are essential when recharge is not necessary or inaccessible since they tend to produce extremely high amounts of energy in small sizes. These kinds of cells are commonly found in toys (not the advanced modern ones that use rechargeable batteries though), medical appliances, various consumer electronics, and many more.
While lithium-based batteries may be inexpensive, portable, and lightweight in nature, they however, generate large amounts of energy and can, therefore, be a fire risk and on other occasions, explosion risk. As compared to their predecessors, lithium-based batteries have shown exceptional prowess in powering spectacular inventions such as the electric car but, it has also proven to be a hazard when applied in other areas.
The dangers of lithium batteries you might not be aware of
Lithium batteries have recently been exposed to their potential for creating several hazards, with the most common one being fire-related incidents. The batteries are used in billions of consumer devices all over the world and were found to produce various safety risks which include:
Leakages of toxic gases
Lithium-based cells were exposed to leak more than 100 poisonous gases including carbon monoxide. People are, however, unaware of this safety risk posed by such gases, which tend to be fatal and cause irritation to the skin, eyes and air passages as well as endanger the environment. Lithium batteries are, however, being promoted by many governments around the globe as a viable source of energy for powering the largest of equipment in industries. It has become so common among families that the general public doesn’t seem to understand the intensity behind these risks.
Fires are a result of extreme temperatures that occur on lithium-based batteries. The failure of lithium batteries and overheating leads to a dangerous process known as thermal runaway. Thermal runaway is a reaction within the cells that causes internal conditions such as temperature and pressure to rise beyond normal levels and at a quicker rate than can be controlled. Once the cells fall into thermal runaway, it produces excess heat that might lead to fires, which repeatedly flares up as each battery cell raptures its chemical contents.
This is as a result of the consistent fire that began within the cells. Keep in mind that lithium-based batteries contain highly reactive chemicals in their cells, and thus, when the cells rapture due to fire, these chemicals tend to react in the only way they know possible, exploding. The explosions might lead to and increased the rate of fire and distribute embers, which spreads the flames to other flammable materials. Also, explosions can lead to the release of toxic gases, which combine to form extremely poisonous substances that is capable of threatening the lives of many living organisms.
Safety concerns for damaged lithium batteries
Damaged or defective lithium-based cells are incredibly hazardous to the users and the environment and well and therefore require special handling to avoid increasing the chances of risks. Please do not dispose of these damaged cells in the trash as they could cause a fire in the garbage collector truck or at the disposal site. Place the battery in a non-flammable material or clear plastic bag and take it to your local household hazardous waste recycling site.
Damaged lithium batteries contain inherent instabilities of lithium metal and increase the risk of thermal runaways. The temperatures of these cells would rise quickly and once it hits the melting point of the metal, a violent reaction would be caused. These reactions have the possibility of releasing toxic substances such as gases, which can have severe effects on their users giving them burns and other poison-related impacts on their bodies.
Risks and side effects of your caring for lithium batteries
When caring for your lithium-based batteries, you need to take extra precautions because there are many risks associated with them. From thermal runaways to leakages, fires and explosions, the risks are endless and call for your extra attention. If abused or carelessly handled, the consequences may turn out to be dangerous. The toxic gases may cause burns on your skin and irritation in your eye, while thermal runaway may lead to fire-related incidents and explosions.
It is, therefore, necessary to follow the right guidelines when caring for this battery technology because, as much as it may seem to be an excellent solution to the power requirements of our generation, it is also lethal.
For generations now, lithium-based batteries have been appraised for their numerous contributions in various industries providing solutions to the high energy requirement needs. As much as this battery technology doesn’t seem to stop any time soon, people should also be cautious of the risks they pose and not only focus on the benefits. This way we can put effort into reducing the effects and risks as we try to improve this unique and powerful battery.
lithium-ion battery e-bike battery lithium battery