Lithium Ion Battery Incident

Thread Starter

BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
2,386
I have preached here on the forum about why beginners should not try to make a Lithium Ion battery charger.

I recently purchased a charger and some AA sized 14450 Lithium Ion cells. The charger is specified to charge that size, among others, up to 6 at a time.

Charger

Batteries

I put 5 cells in the charger this morning, and fortunately left the room. About 15 minutes later I heard an explosion very much like a gunshot or larger firecracker. Looking up the stairs, the room in which the batteries were charging was filled with smoke. I went up and found the charger upside down, with no batteries in it. Ash and pieces of battery were scattered everywhere. I assembled what I could. The large metal pieces were found 15 and 25 ft from the location of the charger, and clearly used to be two of the five cells.

ExplosionSmall.jpg

Another piece traveled about 10 feet and landed on the fringe of an oriental rug, starting a fire,which, luckily did not spread.

FireSmall.jpg

I feel very lucky that I was not sitting where I am now, which is 2 feet away from the exploding batteries. Also, I am happy that this was not one of my designs, lest the lovely wife Morticia ban my electronics hobby!

The charger has reverse polarity protection, which I have tested and it works, so it was not caused by inserting a battery backwards. It also claims to have all kinds of protections. I measured the current when charging previously and it was in the 400mA range per cell, which is certainly okay for these cells even if the 2400 mAh rating is incorrect, (which it is, probably more like 600.) I think I am going to get myself one of those fireproof Lithium Ion charging bags made for the paranoid.

Bob
 
Last edited:

MrSoftware

Joined Oct 29, 2013
1,775
In the name of being objective, from what we know so far the problem could just as likely be a problem with the batteries as with the charger. Lithium batteries do sometimes spontaneously combust, which is why you are not allowed to ship a lot of them by air. A quick google will give you tons of stories of burning laptops and exploding cell phones. Maybe there is a charger problem, maybe not, we don't have enough info yet to say.
 

Audioguru again

Joined Oct 21, 2019
1,458
Guess what? You used a 4.2V Li-ion charger to explode non-rechargeable 3.6V batteries that have some lithium in them.
Energizer make some AA and AAA non-rechargeable Lithium batteries and I got samples when they first were introduced. I did not attempt charging them.
 

Thread Starter

BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
2,386
Guess what? You used a 4.2V Li-ion charger to explode non-rechargeable 3.6V batteries that have some lithium in them.
Energizer make some AA and AAA non-rechargeable Lithium batteries and I got samples when they first were introduced. I did not attempt charging them.
OMG! You are right!

I was searching for 14450 Lithium Ion cells, and sure enough, these showed up among others that actually were Li Ion and rechargeable. I picked the wrong one.

edit: No wonder the others were more expensive and lower capacity :oops:

Bob
 

Reloadron

Joined Jan 15, 2015
5,423
While nice to know the cause I just have a distrust of those things. My idea of a nice charge environment is inside a steel ammo can or similar. Glad you weren't around for the bang.

Ron
 

sagor

Joined Mar 10, 2019
206
Charging non-rechargable batteries of any kind, risks explosion or fire, no matter what charger you have. It was not the charger, it was "human error" that caused this.
 

Thread Starter

BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
2,386
I agree, I mistakenly bought non-rechargeables that I thought were rechargeable. I had no idea that there were 3.6V lithium primary cells. If I had read the description carefully, I could have surmised that, but it was not explicitly mentioned, and they showed up in the same search with the rechargeable ones.

Bob
 

ebeowulf17

Joined Aug 12, 2014
3,274
I agree, I mistakenly bought non-rechargeables that I thought were rechargeable. I had no idea that there were 3.6V lithium primary cells. If I had read the description carefully, I could have surmised that, but it was not explicitly mentioned, and they showed up in the same search with the rechargeable ones.

Bob
Yikes! Lesson learned, and thanks for sharing. It would be an easy mistake to make. I'll certainly be that much more careful in the future after reading this story.

As a side note, I read enough exploding or spontaneously combusting battery reviews on Amazon that I ended up deciding that I will never charge my little quadcopter batteries anywhere except on the concrete floor of the basement, at least 6 feet or so from anything else (although it sounds like even 6 feet may not be enough!)
 

MrSoftware

Joined Oct 29, 2013
1,775
I know lithium batteries have an especially bad reputation, but if you've ever seen a car battery explode it's horrifying too. Batteries in general give me the willies when I really think about it..
 

MisterBill2

Joined Jan 23, 2018
6,008
I have had some luck at recharging non-rechargeable batteries to some extent using a much lower current, so as to not cause heating. Until you can know what works, 10 to 20 mA is a reasonable start, and feel the battery frequently to detect heating. AND ALWAYS use a scatter-shield when charging batteries.
 

Audioguru again

Joined Oct 21, 2019
1,458
As a side note, I read enough exploding or spontaneously combusting battery reviews on Amazon that I ended up deciding that I will never charge my little quadcopter batteries anywhere except on the concrete floor of the basement, at least 6 feet or so from anything else (although it sounds like even 6 feet may not be enough!)
My other hobby is flying radio controlled model airplanes that use lightweight Li-PO batteries without protection circuits. For 10 years I have never had a problem with the American Name-Brand batteries that I buy at my local hobby store. I avoid the ebay, Amazon, AliExpress and Banggood Cheap no-name Chinese ones.
 

ebeowulf17

Joined Aug 12, 2014
3,274
My other hobby is flying radio controlled model airplanes that use lightweight Li-PO batteries without protection circuits. For 10 years I have never had a problem with the American Name-Brand batteries that I buy at my local hobby store. I avoid the ebay, Amazon, AliExpress and Banggood Cheap no-name Chinese ones.
Well, I don't always feel the same about American vs. Chinese stuff as you seem to, but I'd definitely agree that the big, name-brand companies seem to have a vested interest in protecting their reputation (and avoiding lawsuits,) so they seem to maintain higher quality standards, especially around safety issues.

No-name suppliers offering stuff through Amazon, eBay, etc. have zero accountability. If something goes wrong, they can "close up shop" and reopen the next day under a different name. I'm wary of them in general, but especially so when there are potential safety concerns.
 
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