Why A Containment Bag? Why Not Water? Why Not An Extinguisher?
WATER & MOST EXTINGUISHERS May Be A Bad Idea!
According to the Lithium International Chem Safety Card “It is highly flammable. Is readily ignited by and reacts with most extinguishing agents such as water, carbon dioxide, and carbon tetrachloride [Mellor 2, Supp 2:71. 1961]. Reacts with water to form caustic lithium hydroxide and hydrogen gas (H2)...”
We are aware of the FAA report which recommends not handling a device in thermal runaway, but after much discussion with industry professionals, we know there can be no "catch-all" answer when dealing with lithium-ion fires. There are simply too many variables to know what is going to be the best response. We feel not dealing with a device that is bursting into flames or venting extremely toxic gases and smoke at 30,000 ft could be as /or more dangerous to all on board than one person (properly equipped) grabbing the threat and dealing with it appropriately. The panic alone that would ensue while allowing a burning/smoking device to sit there uncontained could pose a real threat to safety, not to mention the threat to life and limb from the flames, debris, and toxins being released during the event...
Lithium-ion batteries do not need oxygen to burn and direct contact with water will likely result in a violent reaction, which may produce steam vapor. The explosion can be dangerous. The resulting steam vapor will be extremely toxic and laced with heavy metals. Far more dangerous than smoke alone, steam vapor penetrates more efficiently than smoke. Sinus and lung tissue would be very vulnerable should this happen.
Even if you have the proper extinguisher on hand you should not move the device without containing it first. Why? One cell ruptures and is extinguished, but the excessive heat from the first cell has started a chain reaction within an adjacent cell and it is only a matter of time before it too ruptures. You extinguish this second cell, but it has started the same reaction with its adjacent cell... and so on and so on. You do not want to move a device in thermal runaway without containment as you do not know when the next rupture will occur. With some of the tests we've conducted devices have taken over an hour and thirty minutes to cycle through each individual cell. That's 90 minutes of toxic smoke and fumes releasing without the ability to move or contain it..
Miscellaneous Battery Facts:
• See what happens when you add just a pinch of Lithium to water here.• "By nature, lithium-ion batteries are dangerous. Inside, the main line of defense against short circuiting is a thin and porous slip of polypropylene that keeps the electrodes from touching. If that separator is breached, the electrodes come in contact, and things get very hot very quickly. The batteries are also filled with a flammable electrolyte, one that can combust when it heats up, then really get going once oxygen hits it. Not scary enough? That liquid is mixed with a compound that can burn your skin." -Wired Magazine (TIM MOYNIHAN) • Here is a link to a video we shot of what a li-ion battery looks like without any protective devices. The battery used is equivalent to a battery found in the highest end laptops, so this is an extreme example, but even lower end (more common) battery packs can get pretty dramatic during thermal runaway. Note what happens when they try to extinguish it at the 25 sec mark and the 1:17 mark... The extinguishing agents actually cause large flares... • Over 5 billion Lithium-Ion Batteries were produced in 2016. While they are generally safe, this ever-increasing volume ensures incidents are going to happen... How many lithium-ion batteries are there at your facility? Keep in mind, every cell phone, tablet, laptop, cordless power tool, emergency flashlight, computer back up power pack, camera. etc, etc... is powered by one.