Lithium Battery Safety

Handling   Testing
           

Safe Disposal
Lithium/thionyl chloride batteries must be disposed of properly in accordance with 40 CFR PARTS 261 & 262. Lithium batteries for disposal are classified as Waste Lithium Batteries, Class 9, UN3090, II for shipping purposes, and they have an EPA waste disposal code of D003 and D001.

The end products of lithium thionyl chloride battery deactivation are not toxic (non-hazardous) once neutralized. Lithium thionyl chloride batteries should be disposed of by an EPA permitted treatment, storage, and disposal facility. Because each state and country have different disposal regulations, contact your local environmental agency for instructions on how to properly manage and dispose of waste lithium batteries.

 

Emergency Conditions
Because of the high energy density inherent in lithium thionyl chlor ide batteries, the potential for hazardous situations does exist. Most hazards are due to internal or external heating of a hermetically sealed battery. Overheating causes liquid electrolyte to expand, increasing hydrostatic pressure inside the can, which might cause the battery to burst. Further heating can cause the lithium anode to melt which, in turn, will react spontaneously with the electrolyte and bring about a violent reaction of the battery.

 

Causes of Hazardous Conditions: Electrical and Physical
Hazardous electrical conditions include recharging, short circuiting and forced discharging (voltage reversal). Engineered Power�s bobbin and moderate rate anode batteries are generally not capable of hazardous behavior unless external power is applied or they are short circuited at elevated temperatures. Unfused, spirally wound batteries can vent or violently rupture when short-circuited at any temperature.

Hazardous physical conditions include external heating due to uncontrolled storage, incineration and physical destruction of the battery case via crushing, puncturing, and disassembling. Excessive heating can cause violent behavior with any type of battery. Physical destruction can result in leakage of toxic and highly corrosive electrolyte.

 

Emergency Procedures
OSHA Safety Regulations must be followed, at all times, the OSHA regulatory references are found in 29 CFR PART 1910. In the unlikely event of violent battery behavior, the area should be evacuated immediately. Unless they are wearing personal protection devices, all workers should stay away from the area for at least 15 minutes rather than trying to correct the situation. Burning or fuming batteries should be left isolated until expert handling can correct the condition. Lithium fires should never be extinguished with equipment other than that which is designed for lithium fires (i.e. Class D).

In case of leakage, leaking batteries should be isolated from all personnel and equipment. Since electrolyte can be neutralized with common baking soda, leaking batteries should be placed in sealed plastic bags containing baking soda. The bags should be placed in a sealed and labeled drum. Vermiculite should be used to cushion the cells.

Note: Personal Protective Equipment should always be used around leaking batteries.

 

Safety Equipment and Materials
Common personal protective equipment and material that should be available in the event of a lithium thionyl chloride cell being involved in an incident such as a crush, puncture, or fire is as follows:
Rubber Gloves Respirator
(Complete with Acid Gas Canister)
Lab Apron
Rubber Boots Neutralization Materials:
Baking Soda or Soda Ash
Extinguishing Materials:
Class D Powder

Other Equipment Required
Infrared temperature probe,ermiculite,non-conductive pliers or tongs, thermal resistant gloves, and liquid nitrogen.

Handling of Lithium Thionyl Chloride Batteries Under Abnormal Conditions
The following paragraphs will discuss the safe handling of Lithium Thionyl Chloride (LTC) batteries under the abnormal hazardous conditions of:

1 Leaking or venting cells    2 Hot cells    3 Exploding cells    4 Lithium fires 

 

Procedure for Leaking or Vented Cells
Leaking or vented cells should be isolated from personnel and equipment. If possible, the area should be vented to the outside. Prior to handling, the temperature of the cells should be checked with a remote sensing device such as an infrared temperature probe. If the cells are at ambient temperature, they should be handled with rubber gloves or non-conductive pliers or tongs and placed in plastic bags containing sodium carbonate. Spilled electrolyte should be absorbed with sodium carbonate and placed in plastic bags. All bags should be placed in a sealed and labeled drum with Vermiculite or other non-flammable cushioning material such as sand or sodium carbonate to cushion the cells. These materials should be disposed as previously discussed under "Safe Disposal" in the lithium battery safety manual.

 

Procedure for Hot cells
As soon as a hot cell is detected, all personnel should be evacuated from the area. The temperature of the cell should be monitored with a remote sensing device such as an infrared temperature probe. The area should remain evacuated until the cell has cooled to room temperature. When the cell has returned to room temperature, it can be handled by an operator wearing protective equipment (face shield, flak jacket, and gloves) with non-conductive pliers or tongs and placed in plastic bags containing sodium carbonate and placed in labeled drums containing Vermiculite or other non-flammable cushioning material such as sand or sodium carbonate to cushion the cells. These materials should be disposed of as previously discussed under "Safe Disposal."

OR

If liquid nitrogen is available, the cell should be placed in liquid nitrogen/or dry ice with a pair of tongs. Once frozen, the cell must be dissected and the components neutralized in a soda ash water bath. Unused or partially used lithium must be set aside to hydrolize.

If the cell is thawed and not dissected, the cell will return to its original state of being hot (short-circuited) and may explode.

If the cell vents or explodes, it should be handled with the procedure for vented or exploding cells.

 

Procedure for Exploding Cells
If a cell explodes, all personnel should be evacuated from the area. The area should be vented to the outside until the pungent odor is no longer detectable. If the expelled material is on fire, it should be treated as described below in the procedure for a lithium fire. After the residue has cooled, it can be absorbed with sodium carbonate and placed in plastic bags. All bags should be placed in a sealed and labeled drum with Vermiculite or other non-flammable cushioning material such as sand or sodium carbonate to cushion the cells. These materials should be disposed as previously described under �Safe Disposal.?

 

Procedure for a Lithium Fire
Evacuate the Premises. Personnel should avoid breathing the smoke from a lithium fire as it may be corrosive. Trained personnel wearing self-contained breathing apparatus or a respirator with acid gas cartridges should use Class D fire extinguishers to fight the fire. When the fire is extinguished and the residue cooled, it can be absorbed with Sodium Carbonate and placed in plastic bags. . All bags should be placed in a sealed and labeled drum with Vermiculite or other non-flammable cushioning material such as sand or sodium carbonate to cushion the cells. These materials should be disposed as previously described under �Safe Disposal.?

 

See NAERG 138 for General Safety Information for Lithium Battery Materials.

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