Reports of exploding e-cigarettes, hoverboards and mobile phones have raised questions on the safety of lithium-ion batteries.
Recently, campuses throughout Louisiana have taken action to ban hoverboards, which use lithium-ion batteries and are responsible for numerous fires. E-cigarettes and mobile phones have also created safety problems for consumers. The good news is that these explosions are rare, but the bad news is that people can be seriously injured when they occur.
Why Do Lithium-Ion Batteries Explode?
Lithium-ion battery explosions are caused by a chain reaction that occurs within milliseconds. The chain reaction is called ‘thermal runaway’, a cumulative effect that causes the battery to continue becoming hotter until an explosion occurs.
Lithium-ion batteries can become dangerous when used in products that are poorly constructed overseas, such as e-cigarettes and hoverboards. These devices may not have internal safeguards in place to prevent battery overheating, while many other consumer electronics do.
Lithium-Ion Battery Explosions Are Powerful
Just how powerful are these explosions? In one case, a lithium-ion battery in an electronic cigarette exploded while a man was using it, knocking out several of his teeth and causing a spinal cord injury. Another recent e-cigarette explosion punctured a hole in the roof of a man’s mouth.
Other consumer electronics have exploded, in some cases causing fatal injuries. A 23-year-old Indian man was killed when his Nokia 1209 phone exploded near his head. The force of the blast caused injuries to his ear, shoulder and neck. In another cases, lithium-ion batteries have caught fire aboard passenger aircraft.
While lithium-ion batteries are safe under most circumstances, we would be wise to remember that devices that use them can cause catastrophic injuries and fires.