The proper and safe handling of lithium-ion batteries

Fire-protected and certified

What do laptop computers, e-scooters, e-bikes, power tools and domestic appliances have in common in our modern world? The answer is lithium-ion batteries. Unlike conventional batteries, lithium-ion cells can store large amounts of energy in a dense, compact battery. It is the battery of choice to enable a prolonged life span in one charge, designers prefer lithium-ion batteries as it can be powerful, yet discreet.

As good as we perceive lithium ion batteries to be, they do attract criticism owing to safety concerns that they can pose. In particular, lithium-ion batteries present an increased risk of fire and explosion. This risk is a result of their very high energy density, they can spontaneously ignite under certain conditions or become unstable and explode when heated. If a technical defect occurs or the battery fails, this can have serious consequences on people and the environment.

Do you use electrical appliances or other products with lithium-ion batteries that need to be stored safely and charged in an optimal environment? asecos has the solution! We want to make a stand and provide solutions BEFORE tragedy strikes. Which is why we have developed a 90-minute fire resistant cabinet with integrated battery charging units.

Battery charging cabinets and battery storage cabinets from asecos

Lithium batteries are not as harmless as they seem. Fire-resistant safety storage cabinets are currently regarded as one of the safest options for the active and passive storage of lithium-ion batteries.

Due to the growing use of lithium-ion batteries of the mid-range performance class, the risks associated with the storage and in particular unattended charging of these batteries in commercial and private areas are on the increase. For property insurers and businesses of all sizes, it is therefore of great interest, that there are available protective devices such as fire resistant safety storage cabinets which can be used to minimise risks, avoiding damage to property and life, as well as substantial financial claims.

As the world's leading manufacturer of safety cabinets, asecos has developed special fire-resistant storage cabinets for medium powered lithium-ion batteries. Lithium-ion batteries can be safely stored (passive storage) and, depending on the model, also charged (active storage) in these safety cabinets without permanent supervision.

In the event of an external fire, the lithium-ion batteries stored in the safety cabinets are protected against overheating for a period of 90 minutes. This prevents the lithium-ion batteries stored in the cabinet from spontaneously igniting, becoming unstable or exploding. Even in case of a fire coming from the inside, fire resistance of more than 90 minutes is demonstrably achieved. Depending on the model, the safety cabinets are additionally equipped with an automatic aerosol fire-extinguishing system and smoke/temperature sensors. That means: Perfect protection even during unattended loading.

Why can lithium-ion batteries be dangerous?

When properly handled and stored, the use of lithium-ion batteries is considered generally safe. However, dangers during operation cannot be completely eliminated, as they can sometimes ignite spontaneously causing fire.

Lithium ion batteries consist of dozens of layers of coated metal foils. Plus, and minus layers are each separated by a wafer-thin protective layer (separator). If there are cracks in this protective layer, the stored energy can be released uncontrollably and lithium-ion batteries can cause a fire. The reasons for this are:

  • Electrical overload (during charging and discharging)
  • Overheating (thermal overloading due to external heat or energy sources)
  • Shocks (mechanical damage in combination with the high energy density of the battery)

If a defect occurs, it can have serious consequences: The battery burns through and can even explode. This releases toxic gases that can be lethal. Such fires with lithium-ion batteries are difficult to control and the fire spreads quickly. The fire brigade commonly would only be able to prevent the spread of fire to areas adjacent to where the fire occurs.

What can we do towards preventing a potential risk?

► Compliance with manufacturer specifications.
► Protect against short circuit of battery poles.
► Protect against mechanical damage.
► Do not expose lithium ion batteries to high temperatures or heat sources.
► Compliance with a structural or spatial separation (at least 2.5 m) to other combustible materials, if no automatic extinguishing system is available.
► Remove immediately any damaged or defective batteries from storage and production areas (intermediate storage until disposal at a safe distance or in an area separated from fire protection Technology is highly advisable).
► Exclusive storage of batteries with test certificate according to UN 38.3 (prototypes only in exceptional cases and with risk assessment).
► Storage in fire-resistant separated areas or with observance of a safety distance (spatial separation of 5 m).
► Avoid mixed storage with other fire-accelerating products.
► Monitoring of the storage area by means of a suitable fire alarm system with a system of constant inspection.
► If fire extinguishing systems are present: Suitable extinguishing agents outlined in the technical product data sheets, must be considered over any other perceived method.

CONCLUSION

If a battery burns out, the consequences can be devastating. To assist in the prevention of this situation and avoid a catastrophic scenario, lithium-ion batteries should be stored and charged in special fire resistant safety storage cabinets. Fire-resistant safety cabinets are currently regarded as one of the safest ways of storing lithium-ion batteries.