I had no idea that lithium-ion batteries could explode or cause a fire. I've loved using them in my cellphones and my power tools, especially, since they seem so much less damaging to the environment than NiCads. But I didn't know about this:
I keep my cellphone in a case anyway.... a sticky case in my shirt pocket to keep it from falling out when I lean over to flush the toilet, to be blunt. Now it sounds to me as if keeping my cellphone in a case might also be some added protection in the very low probability event that my lithium-ion battery overheats or bursts into flame.
Small, potent lithium-ion power packs have transformed the world of radio-controlled model aircraft, much as they have allowed smartphones to get thinner, power tools to work longer and electric cars to go farther. But a pair of serious incidents this month involving rechargeable batteries in Boeing 787 Dreamliners have highlighted what model-airplane hobbyists long have known — lithium-ion technology comes with inherent dangers.
When a cellphone battery overheats — a rare event — it can eject itself with a loud “pop,” leaving singe marks behind. Lithium-ion battery packs can have prolonged fires as each cell, typically the size of a man’s finger, gradually ignites.
“It could be a smoke bomb. It could be a flamethrower,” said Gerard Back, a senior engineer with Hughes Associates, a fire-protection company in Baltimore that investigated the Volt incident. “I’ve seen them look like every type of firework you can imagine.”