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BATTERY HAZARDS AND ACCIDENT PREVENTION

BATTERY HAZARDS AND ACCIDENT PREVENTION

Samuel C. Levy

Sandia National Laboratories Albuquerque, New Mexico

and

Per Bro

Southwest Electrochemical Company Santa Fe, New Mexico

SPRINGER SCIENCE+BUSINESS MEDIA, LLC

 

Library

of

Congress

Cataloging-in-Publication

Data

 

Levy,

Samuel

C.

Battery

hazards

and

accident

prevention

I

Samuel

C.

Levy

and

Per

Bro.

 

p.

em.

Includes

bibliographical

references

and

index.

 

ISBN 978-1-4899-1461-3

ISBN 978-1-4899-1459-0 (eBook)

DOI

10.1007/978-1-4899-1459-0

 

1.

Electric

batteries--Safety

measures.

 

2.

Electric

batteries-

-Accidents.

I.

Bra,

P.

<Perl

II.

Title.

 

TK2941.L43

1994

621.31'242'0289--dc20

 

94-30814

 

CIP

ISBN 978-1-4899-1461-3

© 1994 Springer Science+Business Media New York

Originally published by Plenum Press, New York in 1994 Softcover reprint of the hardcover 1st edition 1994

All rights reserved

No part of this book may be reproduced,

stored in a retrieval system,

or transmitted in any

form or by any means, electronic,

mechanical, photocopying, microfilming, recording,

or

otherwise, without written permission from the Publisher

Preface

This book is about how to avoid the accidents and injuries that may occur

when batteries are abused or mishandled.

It

is the first book to deal specifically

with this subject in a reasonably comprehensive manner accessible to readers

ranging from regular consumers to technical specialists. Batteries and battery

processes are described

in sufficient detail to

enable readers to understand

why and how batteries cause accidents and what can be done to prevent them.

Each year in the United States alone, thousands of individuals are injured by

battery accidents, some of which are severely disabling. such accidents need not occur.

The tragedy is that

The book is intended to

satisfy the needs

of a varied group of readers:

battery users in general, battery engineers,

and designers of battery-operated

equipment and consumer electronics. Since the book is a reference source of

information

on batteries

and battery chemicals,

we believe

it may

also be

useful

to

those studying the environment

as well

as to

medical personnel

called upon to treat battery injuries. There are no prerequisites for an under-

standing of the text other than an interest in batteries and their safe usage.

Nontechnical readers may

skip the more

technical segments of the book,

such as the chapters of Part II, with no loss of understanding of the essential

characteristics

of batteries and their hazards.

They may wish to begin with

Chapter 2 and Part V, both of which deal with accidents and accident pre-

vention, before dipping into Chapters

1, 7, and 8 for information on batteries

in general and on specific battery systems. If they are using lithium batteries,

Part IV should be considered mandatory reading.

Battery engineers will find

that they know some ofthe material in the book already. They may want to

skim lightly over Chapter 1 and Part III and to concentrate their reading on

Parts II, IV, and V.

The book should prove useful as a resource on batteries

for designers of battery-operated equipment and consumer electronic devices.

vi

PREFACE

Designers play

an

essential

role

in

ensuring

the safety

of battery-operated

equipment and electronic devices for general consumer use.

In order to ac-

complish that objective, they need to understand battery processes, the causes

of battery hazards, and the possible effects of electronic and electrical circuitry

on the development of hazardous conditions in batteries. Designers of new

and advanced equipment may find Part IV on lithium batteries of particular

value.

It

contains essential information on the advanced power sources likely

to power consumer electronic devices of the future. Parts III and IV contain

much of interest to environmentalists. There,

we discuss the chemical com-

position of batteries and the toxicity of battery materials.

We do not discuss

the effects

of battery materials on ecosystems,

nor the disposal or recycling

of batteries. These topics are treated in considerable detail in existing literature

to which we refer in the text.

We need to say a few words about the different manner in which we have organized the material on aqueous battery systems and that on nonaqueous

lithium

battery

systems.

Aqueous

systems represent

an

essentially mature

technology, and they have many common features. This enabled us to organize the existing information within a simply structured framework. Lithium bat-

teries,

on

the other hand,

are still

in development

and

display

far greater

chemical

and physical variations than do

aqueous batteries.

Some lithium

systems have found important applications,

but the majority

of them have

yet to

make a

significant commercial impact.

It

is

too

early

to

say which

among the many systems will become important in the general battery market.

In addition, there is little commonality between the different lithium systems.

We chose, therefore,

to discuss each lithium system separately and in some

detail to provide readers with information that may allow them to assess the

relative merits

of the various systems from an operational and safety point

of view. Thus,

lithium batteries occupy

a disproportionate

fraction

of text

relative to their commercial importance. We think this approach is justified both by the promise of lithium batteries for future applications and by their greater hazard potential compared with that of aqueous electrolyte battery

systems. We benefited greatly from

our discussions with friends

and colleagues

and by their advice during the preparation of the book. George Schwartz was

very helpful with medical advice, Paul K.rehl provided useful information

on

the practical aspects of lithium battery safety, and D. B. Adolf, J. W.

Braith-

waite,

R.

G. Buchheit, Jr.,

S.

N.

Burchett, W.

R.

Cieslak, J.

M. Freese,

and

R. A. Guidotti of the Sandia National Laboratories were all very helpful with

information on material properties relevant to battery safety. We are greatly indebted to them all and thank them for their contributions. This work was partially supported by the United States Department of Energy under contract DE-AC04-94 AL 8500.

Contents

PART

I.

INTRODUCfiON

TO

BATTERIES

AND SAFETY

 

1.

Batteries and Battery Processes

 

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1.3.3.

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1.3.4.

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1.3.5.

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21

  • 2. The Nature of Battery Hazards and Accidents

 

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Battery Hazards

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35

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38

PART

II. FUNDAMENTAL

ASPECTS

OF

BATTERY

SAFETY

  • 3. Battery Leakage

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43

3.1.1.

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44

3.1.2.

Electrical Gas Generation,

External Drivers

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48

3.1.3.

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55

viii

CONTENTS

3.2.

Other Internal Leakage Drivers.

 

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58

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Leakage Paths

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60

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3.3.2.

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3.3.3.

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3.4.

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Leakage Rates

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3.5.1.

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3.5.2.

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80

References

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Ruptures.

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4.2.

Mechanical Stress and

Safety Vents.

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95

References

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5 .1.

The Cause of Battery Explosions

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10 1

5.2.

The Explosive Process

 

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104

References

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111

  • 6. .

Thermal Runaway

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113

6.1.

High Discharge Rates

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115

6.2.

Short

Circuits

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117

6.3.

Charging and Overcharging

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125

Bibliography

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131

PART III. AQUEOUS ELECTROLYTE BATTERIES

 
  • 7. Primary Batteries

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135

7.1.

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7.2.

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138

7

.3.

Batteries) Alkaline Manganese

Batteries

 

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139

7

.4.

Silver Oxide Batteries

 

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140

7.5.

Mercuric Oxide

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142

7.6.

Cadmium/Mercuric

 

Oxide Batteries

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144

7.7.

Zinc/Air Batteries

 

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145

CONTENTS

ix

  • 7.8. Primary Battery Materials and Toxicity

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147

  • 7.8.1. Cadmium

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148

  • 7.8.2. .

Manganese

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  • 7.8.3. Mercury.

7 .8.4.

Silver

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  • 7.8.5. Zinc

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149

150

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151

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  • 7.9.1. Ammoniacal Electrolytes

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152

  • 7.9.2. Alkaline Electrolytes

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153

  • 7.9.3. Zinc Chloride Electrolytes .

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155

156

  • 8. Rechargeable Batteries

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157

  • 8.1. Lead-Acid Batteries, Vented and Sealed

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158

  • 8.2. Nickel/Cadmium Batteries, Vented and

Sealed

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165

  • 8.4. Nickel/Zinc

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168

  • 8.5. Silver/Zinc Batteries

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169

  • 8.6. Manganese/Zinc Batteries

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  • 8.8. Rechargeable Battery Materials and

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Zinc/ Air Batteries

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177

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8.8.10.

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Arsenic

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