Lithium-ion batteries have gained popularity in the industry due to their superior performance compared to lead-acid batteries. However, when using lithium-ion batteries, it is essential to understand the risks and safety considerations associated with their proper use and handling. In this guide, we will explore the key aspects of ensuring the safety of lithium-ion batteries.
Battery electrolyte: risks and considerations
The electrolyte is a crucial part of the lithium-ion battery, as it acts as a catalyst to conduct electricity. Unlike lead-acid batteries, lithium-ion batteries do not require water maintenance because their electrolytes are permanently sealed inside the cells. However, it is essential to know the composition of the electrolytes and their associated risks.
Lithium-ion battery electrolyte generally consists of various organic carbonates. While not corrosive or toxic like the sulphuric acid in lead-acid batteries, lithium-ion battery electrolytes can be flammable and can react violently if exposed to high temperatures or short-circuiting. Therefore, it is crucial to handle lithium batteries with caution and avoid situations that may cause thermal runaway.
Battery charging risks
Charging batteries also carries specific risks that must be considered and that make the difference between the use of traditional or lithium batteries. Unlike lead acid batteries that require periodic charging maintenance, lithium batteries do not require opportunity charging and can remain inside the equipment during charging.
When improperly charged, lead-acid batteries can generate hydrogen and oxygen gases, which requires a properly ventilated charging station. Failure to do so could result in overcharging or situations that could trigger a thermal runaway.
Lithium batteries have a huge advantage in this respect, as keeping the battery inside the equipment makes the charging process safer and more efficient.
What is a thermal runaway and why is it dangerous?
Thermal runaway is a chain reaction of temperature rise that occurs in an overheated battery, which can be highly dangerous. Batteries of all kinds can be susceptible to thermal runaway if exposed to extreme temperatures or if they suffer physical or electrical damage.
Thermal runaway in lithium batteries can lead to an uncontrolled exothermic reaction, generating more heat and releasing flammable gases. If not properly controlled, this can result in combustion and possible explosion. That is why having a Battery Management System (BMS) in place is critical to monitor and prevent overheating situations and minimise the risks associated with thermal runaway.
The importance of BMS to prevent risks
The mentioned BMS is an essential part of lithium-ion batteries and acts as the "brain" of the battery. This type of system monitors and controls the state of each cell in the battery, balances charging and discharging, and prevents dangerous situations such as overcharging or deep discharge.
The BMS is also capable of disconnecting the battery in the event of overheating or detecting abnormal conditions, thus preventing the spread of thermal runaway and reducing safety risks. The presence of a high-quality, well-designed BMS is essential to ensure optimal performance and safety of lithium-ion batteries.
Safe disposal of batteries
The safe disposal of batteries at the end of their useful life is an important aspect of risk management and environmental sustainability. Unlike lead-acid batteries, which contain toxic materials and can pollute the environment if not disposed of properly, lithium-ion batteries generally do not present active risks to the environment when disposed of in landfills.
However, it is important to follow the federal regulations to ensure responsible disposal and recycling of batteries lithium-ion batteries. Although there is still a lot of regulation to be done in such a new market, many manufacturers are already offering recycling and end-of-life battery replacement options, allowing for proper management of these products.
When selecting lithium-ion batteries, it is essential to look for safety certifications such as R100.2 certification. Batteries with such certification have undergone rigorous safety testing and meet national safety standards.
NCPOWER batteries comply with the Certification R100.2 and therefore have been tested for simulated mishandling or damage conditions and meet established safety requirements. This certification is essential to minimise the risks associated with the use of lithium-ion batteries in industrial applications.
The longer the battery life, the smaller the footprint.
The lifetime of a lithium-ion battery is a crucial factor to consider when assessing its overall environmental impact. Unlike lead-acid batteries, which have a limited lifespan, lithium-ion batteries can last up to twice as long, reducing the need for replacement and minimising the environmental footprint.
It is important to consider battery life in charge cycles, as longer life means fewer resources used and less waste generated. Choosing high quality lithium batteries with a long life contributes to a more efficient approach to charging. sustainable and responsible in energy use.
In short, the safety of lithium-ion batteries is a fundamental aspect of ensuring the safe and efficient operation of industrial equipment.
Understanding the risks associated with electrolyte, charging and potential thermal runaway, as well as having an appropriate BMS in place, are important steps to minimise risks and ensure the protection of workers and the environment.
By seeking UL Safety Certification and practising safe disposal, you can contribute to a more sustainable and safer approach to the use of lithium-ion batteries in industrial applications.