AsianScientist (Nov. 1, 2016) – A new study has identified more than 100 toxic emissions, including carbon monoxide, released by the lithium batteries used in more than two billion consumer devices a year. The work was published in Nano Energy.
The dangers of exploding batteries have led manufacturers to recall millions of devices. Dell recalled four million laptops in 2006 and millions of Samsung Galaxy Note 7 devices were recalled last month after reports of battery fires. Beyond the explosion itself, a research team from the Institute of NBC Defence and Tsinghua University in China now warns of toxic gases produced during the explosion.
The gases are potentially fatal, can cause strong irritations to the skin, eyes and nasal passages, and harm the wider environment, but the threats posed by toxic gas emissions and the source of these emissions are not well understood.
The researchers note that many people may be unaware of the dangers of overheating batteries by using third party chargers for their rechargeable devices. Led by Dr. Sun Jie, professor at the Institute of NBC Defence, the team investigated rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that are used in smartphones, tablets and other devices.
Almost 20,000 lithium-ion batteries were heated to the point of combustion in the study, causing most devices to explode and all to emit a range of toxic gases. Batteries can be exposed to such temperature extremes in the real world, for example, if the battery overheats or is damaged in some way.
Sun and her colleagues identified several factors that can cause an increase in the concentration of the toxic gases emitted. A fully-charged battery will release more toxic gases than a battery with 50 percent charge, for example. The chemicals contained in the batteries and their capacity to release charge also affected the concentrations and types of toxic gases released.
Identifying the gases produced and the reasons for their emission gives manufacturers a better understanding of how to reduce toxic emissions and protect the wider public, as lithium-ion batteries are used in a wide range of environments. The researchers now plan to develop this detection technique to improve the safety of lithium-ion batteries so they can be used to power the electric vehicles of the future safely.
The article can be found at: Sun et al. (2016) Toxicity, a Serious Concern of Thermal Runaway from Commercial Li-ion Battery.
Source: Elsevier; Photo: Pexels.
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