Episode 154: Why do batteries catch fire?

Venkat Viswanathan, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, discusses why lithium ion batteries can catch fire and how these fires can be avoided.

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Learn More

Making Lithium-Ion Batteries Safer from Lawrence Berkeley National Labaratory

Fire Hazards of Lithium Ion Batteries from the Federal Aviation Administration

PHMSA Issues Hoverboard Safety Advisory from the US Department of Transportation

Transcript

HOST:    Have you ever wondered why batteries catch fire?  On this week’s Energy Bite, Venkat Viswanathan, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

VENKAT: The batteries in the news for catching fire are Lithium Ion batteries.  These batteries are in many of the electronic devices we use including laptop computers, electric vehicles, and hover boards.  Lithium ion batteries are safe when they are in environments with air temperatures ranging from 14 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.  The problem occurs when the battery is in very cold or very hot environments outside of this range.

HOST:     How can these battery fires be avoided?

VENKAT:  First, think about temperature when you are using a device with a lithium ion battery.  Second, only purchase batteries with a failsafe mechanism from a high quality manufacturer, and use the recommended chargers for that battery. Don’t use batteries or chargers from “aftermarket” manufacturers producing lower quality inconsistent batteries. Third, consider using devices powered by nickel-metal hybrid batteries instead of lithium ion.

HOST:     Have you ever had a battery catch fire? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

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