Lithium batteries have lots of advantages over other battery technologies. They are extremely light, they have high energy density, they can be charged faster, etc. It is because of these advantages that lithium batteries are the most used batteries in electronics devices. If you check any laptop or smartphone, the most likely battery you will find in any of them will be based on lithium battery technology.
Despite the many advantages, lithium batteries still have some draw backs. One of the major drawbacks in these batteries is the high sensitivity to temperature. A change in the environmental temperature affects the battery life of the battery and how it performs. It should be noted that overheating is what led to the explosion of lithium batteries in the Galaxy note 7 phones that exploded a couple of years back.
What may lead to a lithium battery explosion?
There have been several cases of lithium-ion batteries that have exploded in recent years with the most famous being the galaxy note 7 battery. The fundamental cause of battery explosion is normally when the batteries' cathode (positive electrode) gets in touch with the anode (negative electrode). When these two get in touch, they cause a short circuit that later leads to sparks, overheating and explosion. In some situations, the battery even catches fire.
One may ask, what causes the two electrodes to get in contact. This normally happens when the separator (a thin sheet of microperforated plastic) fails do its job. The primary role of the separator is to keep the anode and the cathode away from each other. Since its microperforated, it allows lithium-ions to move through when they are moving from the cathode to anode and vice versa. Some of the reasons that may lead to the failure of the separator include the following;
Poor battery design: A good battery design ensures there is enough space between the anode and then cathode an also puts expansion into consideration. This is because when temperatures get high, the cathode and anode expand a little hence squeezing the separator that is in between. So, during battery design, engineers have to put into consideration spacing in order to avoid separator failure under high temperatures
Ageing: The more you use the battery, the weaker its internal parts become. A very old battery means some of the internal parts of the battery like separator are starting to wear out. When the separators wear out, it is easy for it to fail that automatically leads to a short circuit and explosion in the worst-case scenario.
Battery overheating: leaving your device in high temperature affects the battery more than any other component of the device. When temperatures go beyond the recommended values the battery can withstand, it will cause the anode and cathode to expand hence leading to failure of the separator.
How do you use a lithium battery properly?
To make sure your battery lasts longer, you need to know how to properly use and charge it. It's not common for a battery to explode because of a design issue. Most companies have now mastered the art of designing good Lithium batteries. So, batteries normally get problems due to inappropriate usage. Let me share with you some of the ways you can use a device with a lithium battery to ensure it's safe and also lasts longer.
Avoid leaving your device in extremely high temperatures: Leaving your device in a high temperature environment increases the temperature of the battery as well. But remember overheating is among the leading causes of separator failure and battery explosions. So, it is important to ensure your device is used and kept in only places that are at room temperature. Anything above that is not good for your battery
Avoid using the device while charging it: Charging the device generates some temperature within the battery and using it also does the same. When you do both of these at the same time (especially using the device to do power demanding tasks), the temperatures generated may affect the batteries performance and safety.
So, it is always better to leave your device to charge before you start using it unless it is really an emergency. You can always find time to charge your device when you will less likely be tempted to use it. For example, you may choose to charge in the morning hours at work or while in the gym. This will make it easier to charge the device without using it
Don't let the battery drain till 0% and also don't let it charge till 100%: The internal parts of your lithium battery are on more tension when the voltage is high (100%) and when it is extremely low (0%). This internal tension is what makes the parts to wear out faster hence leading to performance and safety issues.
It is recommended to always keep your device charged between 20 to 80%. Only charge it till 100% if you have to like when you are to spend some time without accessing your charger.
There are a couple of other things you can do to ensure your battery last longer while being safe, but the above are the main things that you shouldn't compromise.
What do you do if a lithium battery explodes?
In the worst-case scenario if the battery overheats and ends up exploding, there are couple things you need to do as soon as possible to remain safe from any danger that maybe caused by the explosion
1. Disconnect the device from power. In case you were charging the device, the first thing is to get it out of power.
2. Use a fire extinguisher or baking soda to put off the fire. Never use water to put off electrical fire. This is because water conducts electricity and could cause further issues. Use a fire extinguisher or baking soda to put off the fire
3. Only touch the device when fire is totally off and when it has cooled. If the fire is still on going, never try to save your device since this will put you at risk as well.
4. Report the issue to your device manufacturer: If your device is still under warranty, you can report the issue to your device manufacturer for further assistance or replacing it if possible.
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