Is the Lithium Battery Fire Threat Real

Aviation Incidents Involving Batteries and Battery Powered Devices

As of May 19, 2014, 144 confirmed air incidents involving batteries carried as cargo or baggage which have experienced Smoke, Fire, Extreme Heat or Explosion have been recorded since March 20, 1991.
(FAA Office of Security and Hazardous Materials Safety)

Recalls of Batteries & Battery powered Devices

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission: official Federal Agency website from June 1, 2013 to June 1, 2014 there have been over 3 million recalls of batteries and battery powered devices due to Fire, smoke and explosion Hazards. . The batteries were installed in laptops, cell phones, cameras and video players, notebooks, phones, toys, flashlights, etc.

No matter how many safety features are included, defects will happen. Over the last decade there have been several high profile recalls of lithium-ion batteries. Nokia recalled 46 million cell phone batteries at risk of fire, smoke and exploding; Lenovo recalled 205,000 batteries, Nikon recalled over 200,000 batteries installed in digital cameras, Sony recalled 10 million batteries used in a variety of laptops. In most instances, the recall was due to design defects that allowed contaminates to prevent the safety features from working or were due to problems in the manufacturing of the batteries. These recalls were certified manufacturers who are monitored and must comply with strict regulations.

When a consumer is tasked with replacing a faulty battery or purchasing a spare battery for their Personal Electronic Device (i.e.-Laptop, tablet, camera, video camera, cell Phone, toy etc.) a majority of consumers opt for an in-expensive battery which can vary in price from 10 to 30 dollars compared to purchasing official OEM batteries which can range from 120 to 220 dollars. Where do these inexpensive batteries come from? How are they tested and monitored and by whom?

Counterfeit Personal Electronic Devices and Batteries

According to Homeland Security Counterfeit seizures report for 2013, over 24,361 individual seizures were made by Us Border patrol officers with an estimated value of $ 1,743,515,581. Over 5,656 individual seizures were made for Consumer Electronics Devices with a suggested retail value of $145,866,526 or 20% of the total seizures. Computers and accessories made up 1,062 seizures and 4% with a retail value of $47,731,513. These devices generally lack any type of thermal protection circuitry. (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency)

Related Articles of Actual Events

IPhone 4 Catches Fire, Combusts Midflight on Australian Airline
Article from IBT Times

Women wakes up to find her PHONE on fire and ‘sizzling’ beside her bed

Article from Mail online UK

Samsung Galaxy S4 reportedly destroys man’s apartment in ‘explosion’

Article from Huffington Post

i-Phone 5c catches fire in student’s pocket, causes second-degree burns

Article from apple insider

Tulsa Man’s E-Cigarette Catches Fire While Charging

Article from News On 6

Laptop left on bed for half an hour sets fire to newlyweds’ Harold Hill house

Article from Ramford Recorder

Laptop Catches Fire, Injures Forest Woman

Article from Channel 13 ABC news

iPad Air catches fire in Vodafone store

Article from Neowin

Seven-year-old requires surgery after Samsung Galaxy S2 EXPLODES in her pocket

Article from Express UK

Major Findings Of Lithium-Ion Battery Testing

LITHIUM BATTERY FIRE TESTS – Harry Webster – FAA William J Hughes Technical Center

  • The ignition of a single battery produces enough heat to ignite adjacent batteries
  • Halon 1301 is ineffective in suppressing a lithium battery fire
  • Batteries of the same type but from different manufacturers exhibit varying flammability characteristics
  • Halon 1301 chemically interacts with the burning lithium and electrolyte-with no effect on fire intensity
  • Batteries fuse together when exposed to flame, promoting propagation between batteries
  • The temperatures found in a suppressed smoldering cargo fire are sufficient to ignite a primary lithium battery
  • The pressure rise due to battery ignition is sufficient to compromise the integrity of a cargo compartment
  • Liquid electrolyte is forcefully vented through the positive terminal vent ports. This liquid is highly flammable and included small white sparks sprayed out with the electrolyte.
  • Cells vented at 470-500 DegF
  • Heat was released during both first and second event venting
  • The electrolyte gas occasionally exploded due to hot surface ignition.
  • Heated cells vent flammable electrolyte gas.
  • Cells begin venting at approx 470 DegF