Lithium and lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable batteries used in consumer products such as laptops, cell phones, medical devices, automobile, and aerospace applications.
Proper storage and handling of lithium batteries maintains their integrity and can prevent fires, explosions, and potential exposures:
- Inspect the batteries before installation and periodically during use to make sure they are in good condition.
- Store batteries in a cool dry place away from heat, open flame, and humidity.
- Separate batteries from flammable and combustible materials.
- Keep batteries in their original packaging or shipping containers.
- If the original packaging is unavailable, cover the battery terminals with tape to prevent accidental contacting and shorts.
- Avoid contacting terminals with metal items to prevent short-circuiting.
- Work on non-conductive surfaces and use non-conductive tools around batteries or wrap them with insulating material.
- Keep charged and discharged batteries separate.
- Dispose of the batteries properly as hazardous waste.
Some of the most important use, handling, and storage tips involve maintaining the integrity of the battery:
- Never disassemble batteries from their original packaging; the contents could leak out.
- Don’t crush, pierce, or expose the battery to excessive physical shock or vibration.
- Don’t place batteries in fire—they could rupture and release electrolyte, which could catch fire or explode.
- Never place batteries in water—they could rupture and release electrolyte. When the electrolyte reacts with humidity, water, or fire it can create hydrofluoric acid, which is a toxic and corrosive substance.
Before putting lithium batteries into use, consider these best practices:
- Confirm the size and capacity of the batteries you are choosing to use.
- Don’t solder leads to battery cases.
- Always use the same size and rating batteries in series or parallel connections.
- Use batteries in groups that are from the same age and history of use and application.
- Don’t mix new batteries with older batteries.
- Only use battery packs that are equipped with electronic protection circuits.
Know the emergency procedures for an accidental leak, fire, or exposure of lithium batteries;
- Keep a Class D fire extinguisher available to extinguish burning batteries.
- Keep a spill kit with absorbent materials available in case of a battery leak.
- Only trained personnel wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE) should attempt to clean up a battery leak or handle a fire or release.
Know the first aid procedures to treat individuals for an exposure to leaking batteries. These potential exposures and treatments include:
- Move them to fresh air if there has been an inhalation exposure. Provide medical attention if needed.
- Wash skin with copious amounts of water and provide further medical attention if needed.
- For eye exposures, avoid rubbing the eyes and immediately flush them with water for at least 15 minutes. Always provide immediate medical attention for eye exposures.
- For ingestion emergencies, don’t induce vomiting. Give the victim copious amounts of water and refer to medical attention.
- Any contact with hydrofluoric acid requires immediate medical treatment. Ice can be used to slow down the reaction on the way to medical treatment.
Lithium batteries are powerful, compact, extremely useful, and convenient. As long as they are used properly, lithium batteries will fulfill our energy needs for products and vehicles safely.