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Seven Safety Considerations with Lithium Batteries

Most of us are aware of the personal safety hazards associated with the use of small lithium batteries used in cell phones, tablets, and even wearables. Although they are effective, there are hazards associated with using large lithium batteries in the Central Office (CO), data center or tower equipment sites.

Large lithium batteries are designed to provide high energy density and long cycle life, but they also pose unique safety concerns.

1. Contamination during manufacturing

Contamination of Cu, Al, Fe, and Ni particles during the manufacturing process can cause internal short circuits, leading to safety issues.

2. Overcharge and over-discharge

Overcharge of the cathode can cause instability and reduce the battery’s safety performance. Over-discharge can also lead to capacity loss and reduced lifespan.

3. Thermal runaway

Lithium-ion batteries are prone to thermal runaway, which can occur when the battery is subjected to high temperatures, physical damage, or manufacturing defects. This can lead to a rapid increase in temperature, potentially causing a fire or explosion.

4. Design and quality issues

Inadequate design, flawed battery construction, and poor-quality control can contribute to safety risks. For example, a battery with a faulty pressure-relief device or PTC resistor may not be able to prevent overheating.

5. Physical abuse and improper use

Physical damage, such as crushing or piercing, can cause a lithium-ion battery to short circuit and overheat. Improper use, such as charging or discharging the battery beyond its recommended limits, can also lead to safety issues.

6. Recall and regulation

Lithium-ion batteries are regulated by various organizations, including the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR). Manufacturers must conform to these regulations when transporting or using lithium batteries.

7. Testing and standards

Various testing standards, such as IEC 62619, are in place to ensure the safety of lithium-ion batteries. These standards cover aspects such as thermal stability, electrical performance, and mechanical robustness.