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Mobile phone battery explodes and burns due to overheat. Danger, exploded mobile phone battery

Lithium-ion batteries power our lives, but improper disposal creates fire hazards we must avoid through responsible recycling.

We are surrounded by lithium-ion batteries. The laptop at your desk, the tablet your kid uses, the brand-new e-bike your husband just bought and the smartphone in your hands … they all use lithium-ion batteries. And why not? Lithium-ion batteries are affordable, reusable and accessible. But that convenience comes at a cost.

Where Did Lithium-Ion Batteries Come From?Crushed Lithium Ion Battery

In the 1970s, the United States was facing an oil shortage. Stanley Whittingham, an English chemist who worked for Exxon, wanted to create a rechargeable battery. The goal was to decrease the country’s dependence on fossil fuels. His early experiments failed because the batteries caught fire, so Exxon stopped supporting his efforts.

But that was not the end. In the 1980s, John B. Goodenough and Akira Yoshino built upon Whittingham’s research, developing the lithium-ion battery by 1990. This was such a landmark achievement that the three scientists won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2019.

What is a Lithium-Ion Battery?

Simply put, a lithium-ion battery is a type of rechargeable battery that uses lithium ions for storing and releasing electrical energy. Unlike traditional disposable batteries, lithium-ion batteries can be recharged hundreds or thousands of times by passing an electrical current through them.

Once consumers saw the benefits of this new technology, production and sales of lithium-ion batteries dramatically increased. Now, these batteries are the most popular power source for electronics. With the launch of electric vehicles in 2008, the demand for lithium-ion batteries skyrocketed and continues growing.

Handle with Caution: Are Lithium-Ion Batteries Safe?

As a consumer, it is your responsibility to know the risks and handle products containing lithium-ion batteries safely. Lithium-ion batteries have become indispensable in our daily lives. However, if they are damaged, overheated or improperly handled, this can cause potential lithium-ion battery fires or explosions.

electric scooter lithium ion battery fire

The flammable electrolyte solution inside lithium-ion batteries can ignite if the battery short-circuits due to physical damage like puncturing the metal casing. Exposing the batteries to excessive heat can also trigger thermal runaway—an uncontrolled rise in temperature leading to catastrophic failure of the battery.

Overcharging your cell phone poses a fire hazard as well, which is why you should never leave your phone charging once the battery is full. This can lead to severe fires that are difficult to extinguish, reaching temperatures of more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. And if there is a fire in your home, make sure you alert first responders to any potential hazards.

Manufacturers bear the responsibility of ensuring their batteries are up to standard. We’ve seen what happens when products with faulty batteries hit the market. Electric cars catching fire. Cell phones and vape pens exploding.

While we, as consumers, have little power over the manufacturers, the government is growing aware of the dangers posed by improperly manufactured lithium-ion batteries. In May, the Setting Consumer Standards for Lithium-Ion Batteries Act was introduced to Congress in an effort to tighten the safety standards for rechargeable batteries.

This will help ensure that the products you purchase, such as e-bikes, scooters, vape devices and even your electric toothbrush will not pose hazards to you while you use them.

How to Dispose of Lithium-Ion Batteries

So, what happens when lithium-ion batteries no longer hold a charge or the electronic devices stop working? What do you do with those batteries and devices?

Never throw lithium-ion batteries or devices with them in the regular trash. It is important to dispose of them properly. When your garbage is collected and compacted by the collection truck, a discarded lithium-ion battery or electronic device powered by one can catch fire, putting the sanitation workers in serious danger. The hazard escalates further once those batteries end up in the landfill. Everything at the landfill gets compacted and crushed by heavy vehicles – and a crushed lithium-ion battery will burst into flames.

The Polk County North Central Landfill has already experienced numerous battery fires caused by lithium-ion cells being crushed. Luckily, the fires were put out before causing major damage, but there is always a risk of a massive, uncontrollable blaze if batteries are not disposed of properly.

Where to Recycle Lithium-Ion Batteries

How do you responsibly recycle your old batteries and electronics? There are a couple of options. Visit www.call2recycle.org to find businesses near you that will take your items.

In Polk County, you can also take your items to the Household Hazardous Waste facility, located at 5 Environmental Loop S. in Winter Haven. They are open on Friday from 8 a.m. to noon, and on Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized technology and have become a vital part of our lives. While they have come a long way from Whittingham’s original experiments, the danger of batteries catching fire still exists.

Handle your electronic devices with caution. Recycle them with care. For your safety and ours.

Sources: Lithium Ion Battery – History – Advancing Materials (thermofisher.com)

 

Lithium-Ion Batteries: The Power and the Peril

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