Safety Alert - Lithium Battery Fires
Author: Safety Committee, Academy of Model
Lithium batteries are becoming
very popular for powering the control and power systems in our models. This is true because of their very high energy density
(amp-hrs/wt.ratio) compared to NiCads or other batteries. With high energy comes increased risk in their use. The principal
risk is FIRE which can result from improper charging, crash damage, or shorting the batteries. All vendors of these batteries
warn their customers of this danger and recommend extreme caution in their use. In spite of this many fires have occurred
as a result of the use of Lithium Polymer batteries, resulting in loss of models, automobiles, and other property. Homes and
garages and workshops have also burned. A lithium battery fire is very hot (several thousand degrees) and is an excellent
initiator for ancillary (resulting) fires. Fire occurs due to contact between Lithium and oxygen in the air. It does not need
any other source of ignition, or fuel to start, and burns almost explosively.
These batteries must be used in a manner
that precludes ancillary fire. The following is recommended:
1. Store and charge in a fireproof
container; never in your model.
2. Charge in a protected area devoid of combustibles. Always
stand watch over the charging process. Never leave the charging process unattended.
the event of damage from crashes, etc., carefully remove to a safe place for at least a half hour to observe. Physically damaged
cells could erupt into flame and after sufficient time to ensure safety, should be discarded in accordance with the instructions
which came with the batteries. Never attempt to charge a cell with physical damage, regardless of how slight.
4. Always use chargers designed for the specific purpose, preferably having a fixed setting for your
particular pack. Many fires occur in using selectable/adjustable chargers improperly set. Never attempt to charge Lithium
cells with a charger which is not, specifically, designed for charging Lithium cells. Never use chargers designed for Nickel
5. Use charging systems that monitor and control the charge state of
each cell in the pack. Unbalanced cells can lead to disaster if it permits overcharge of a single cell in the pack. If the
batteries show any sign of swelling, discontinue charging, and remove them to a safe place outside as they could erupt into
6. Most important: NEVER PLUG IN A BATTERY AND LEAVE IT TO
CHARGE UNATTENDED OVERNIGHT. Serious fires have resulted from this practice.
Do not attempt to make your own battery packs from individual cells.
These batteries CANNOT be handled and charged
casually such as has been the practice for years with other types of batteries. The consequence of this practice can be very
serious resulting in major property damage and/or personal harm.
Info added by Dave.