Catching Fire and Blowing Up

It's the BATTERY, not the e-liquid/atomizer/e-Cigarette.

THERE ARE 2 KNOWN DEATHS FROM A LI-ION BATTERY EVENT USED IN AN E-CIGARETTE SINCE 2007 AS OF 2.6.2019 - 2 IN 12 YEARS

480,000 AMERICANS DIE FROM CIGARETTES EVERY YEAR - 480,000 IN 1 YEAR

HTTPS://WWW.CDC.GOV/TOBACCO/DATA_STATISTICS/FACT_SHEETS/FAST_FACTS/INDEX.HTM

 BASED JUST ON THAT:

E-CIGARETTES ARE 99.9999% SAFER


I am not a professional nor am I an expert at anything. But I will share my lessons learned for Li-Ion BATTERY SAFETY::

1. Battery SELECTION is crucial. Use a battery that is capable of supplying the current the specific device needs...SAFELY. No they (Li-Ion cells) are not all the same. If the device takes multiple batteries, use the same brand and model for all cells it takes and charge them together - treat them as they are married forever.

2. Always use Li-Ion batteries from TRUSTED SOURCES. There are a lot of inexpensive and cheap knock-offs out there called "re-wraps" and they are a primary cause of Li-Ion battery events across all platforms. I highly recommend IMRbatteries.com. Stay away from ebay and flea markets!

3. DO NOT carry Li-Ion cells in your pocket without them being in a protective container designed for them. These events occur because people carry the battery cell loosely in their pocket with change and keys or other metal objects.

4. INSPECT the wrapper on the cell for rips, tears and abrasions and discontinue use. The wrappers on cells are not designed for protection, just labeling. Inserting cells in and removing them from devices damages the wrappers. If this happens, discontinue use and replace immediately. Do not attempt to re-wrap them unless you are qualified.

5. If the e-Cigarette is malfunctioning in ANY way, DISCONTINUE USE IMMEDIATELY. (period) And take it, or send it, to a qualified service representative for THAT SPECIFIC DEVICE. If a vape shop won't touch it then DO NOT mess with it, find a qualified service center for that specific device.

6. I never charge a Li-Ion battery UNATTENDED. And proper handling of the battery itself (don't put in your pocket with keys, change or other metal items, do not sit in sunlight, vehicle or anywhere it can get hot) and never let a Li-Ion battery set uncharged (and if it does then I properly dispose of it). When a Li-Ion cell discharges too far and for too long, copper shunts inside the battery form and will cause one of these events eventually. It is better to be safe than sorry and just get rid of it and discontinue use. Heat is the number one enemy and if it goes too high, the cell can run into thermal run away and vent.

7. Also, I do not charge them with a defective or incorrect charger. Heat is always the key. Charge them too rapidly or to a voltage that is too high and they could start a thermal runaway event. I use known good chargers sold from a reputable dealer like those sold on IMRbatteries.com. And I never leave a Li-Ion battery or battery pack charging unattended. Electronics can go bad in the blink of an eye, that means every and any charger. I charge my batteries when I am home and I can see them. Never over night when I am sleeping. This includes laptops, cordless tools, flashlights and any and everything that uses a Li-Ion battery. And yes, I have a class D fire extinguisher.

8. There will be warning signs. The battery will get hot. The battery will vent fumes and leach electrolyte. I have yet to hear a verified credible story where a Lithium Ion Battery of any ilk went directly from cool no gases or leaking to BLAMO blow up. I know what to look for and I keep an eye on things. If my e-Cigarette is getting hot, I take action, I STOP using it and set aside somewhere safe and fire proof immediately. If I ever had one that was venting fumes or leaching electrolyte my plan is to just drop the whole device and run, grab the class D and dial 911. Under no circumstances should the battery go past 70C or ~160F either charging or discharging. Battery Mooch uses 78C for his Continuous discharge limit and 100C for his safety limit used for his pulse rating. My experience during high power use (200W on two cells in series while doing my TCR testing that fires for minutes at a time), the Li-Ion battery has been much less than 60C. So please understand that means the Li-Ion batteries in an e-Cigarette, or any device, should NOT get hot during use. If it does, then there is something wrong and it needs corrected.

9. A lithium fire is no joke and has to burn out, it can't be put it out in the normal sense. If it goes too quickly, pressures can arise that will burst the cell container though these events are even more rare. If a battery does catch on fire and you are a qualified to use an extinguisher, ONLY use a class D fire extinguisher. If you are not qualified, move away to safety and call 911. Whatever you do, do NOT use water. Water can spread the fire and make the situation worse. The Class D is keeping everything else around the battery from catching on fire without aiding the lithium fire.

10. Don't vape on a plane or any place that can harm others if a battery event occurs. It is actually illegal now but I know some are "stealth" vaping and it is not the wisest thing to do. In my car, if a battery or e-cigarette starts putting off fumes or getting hot, I can roll the window down and throw it out. Try that in a plane. If I am vaping inside the house, I can drop it, go grab the class D Fire Extinguisher and/or call 911. Try that in a plane. Further. What is the power source in the plane to charge from? Is that power source correct for the charger? Is that power source operating properly? I would not assume so based on what I know about airline maintenance and what stops a plane from flying, BTW not the seat chargers. In either case just don't do it. Be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

11. A Li-Ion cell is not dangerous if you understand them and handle, inspect, transport, use and maintain them properly. They pack far more energy in a smaller volume than other common battery types. Very high energy density, this is one of the reasons why we want them. They also have zero memory meaning they can be discharged or charged at any voltage level (>2.5V)  making them far superior than Nickel Metal Hydride, Nickel Cadmium, or Lead Acid. These ain't no alkaline folks. Respect them.

12. This list is just my personal lessons learned. I am NOT an expert on anything and certainly not Li-Ion battery safety. Use your google-fu, consult with a professional. I am NOT one.


Venting

Most e-cigarettes use Lithium Ion batteries. Same Li-Ion technology used in flashlights, cell phones, laptops, cordless tools, vacuum cleaners, hover boards, radios and etc. When I hear reports of e-Cigarettes blowing up or catching fire, it is the Li-Ion battery that has gone into thermal runaway and vented. And the very same events happen with all those other items listed above that use Li-Ion batteries.

Here are some things I keep in mind.

It is scientifically impossible for an e-Cigarette to detonate. The components of the e-liquid; vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, and flavorings will not under any conditions "explode". eLiquid is simply NOT EXPLOSIVE. LOL In fact, neither are the batteries.

The Li-Ion battery can vent. If pressure inside the battery casing rises too sharply, the casing will yield suddenly (burst/rupture), resulting in what people call an "explosion". If a pressurized scuba tank ruptures is that called exploding? The casing on a Li-Ion cell is not designed to contain the pressure nor heat nor flame in thermal runaway. The casing is light and thin and designed merely to hold the insides together and keep the electrolyte from leaking under normal operating conditions. They are not scuba tanks. They are not designed to contain pressure. And neither are flashlights, laptops nor e-Cigarettes nor any device that uses Li-Ion cells.

In fact an 18650 Li-Ion battery venting results in much less sudden release of energy and force than some firecrackers, like an M80 which is equivalent to a quarter stick of dynamite. A firecracker works on this same principle. The gunpowder burns rapidly inside a rolled paper casing creating a sharp increase in pressure which causes the rolled paper casing to yield and rupture creating a "report".

Also, batteries that are going to do this give off gas and get hot long before they rupture. The key is getting hot. That is my clue something is wrong. This video, and I have no idea who made this, shows what happens with a Li-Ion event and thermal runaway: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTzEHsJVZhA

These events are not common. Some product models may experience the problem more than others due to the design. In other words, e-Cigarettes as a class of device that uses Li-Ion cells are not more prone to catching on fire or blowing up than any other product line that uses Li-Ion batteries. A perfect example of this is the popular 18650 LED flashlight. Further, I am not aware of a single e-Cigarette model that is more prone than any other, unlike the Segway, a specific model of a class of personal transport devices for example.

Most Li-Ion battery fires are caused by improper use, storage, and maintenance. A proper system design accounts for these limitations of the specific cell used. Which does not account for the human using the device. Learn battery safety and the warning signs to look for.

So how often does a Li-Ion battery event occur?

I don't know in all cases. I do believe some are user error, carrying a cell in your pocket with change and keys for example. The exact frequency of battery events are unknown. However you can find news snippets like this one: "In 2006, a one-in-200,000 breakdown triggered a recall of almost six million lithium-ion packs." This was by a responsible company, Sony in fact. So that's not bad. They considered 0.0005% to be unacceptable. The FDA also reported there were 66 e-cigarette events in 2015 and part of 2016. There are hundreds of millions of Li-Ion cells or more out there used in everything from avionics (commercial aircraft that you fly on) to underwater ROVs and everything in-between. As there are 10 million vapers, that is at least 10 million cells. I have a couple dozen myself just for e-cigarettes and for flashlights etc. But bad news is sensationalistic and sells advertisements and subscriptions so the media makes it look far more frequent than it really is. But when it happens, even rare, it is a bad day and people can be severely injured and even indirectly killed if it starts a fire in their home. And let me be clear in saying there is not one credible case of a home fire and resulting death associated with an e-cigarette. Can't say that about laptops though. But with that said, there are two known cases of people purportedly being killed by an e-Cigarette whose Li-ion battery vented. Neither case resulted in immediate death. One is confirmed to have died days later while in the hospital from complications. It was also reported in this case that there was shrapnel in the victims neck that was never removed. How much that has to do with the resulting death is unknown but curious.

Now let us compare that to cigarettes. 480,000 Americans die every year due to smoking. That is 480,000 in just 1 year, every year. So far as of January 2019 we have had two deaths from "e-Cigarettes". e-Cigarettes have been in the mainstream since 2007, that's 12 years. SO 2 in 12 years compared to 480,000 every year. Also, how many homes caught on fire from smoking and people died? When a bad day happens with a cigarette or butane lighter, people die from smoke inhalation. But we don't hear that part of the story. Nor do we hear about the chemicals put in cigarettes as a flame retardant nowadays and how that alone kills people. Just from this perspective alone, e-Cigarettes are far safer than cigarettes. 99.9999% safer. And those numbers do not include the number of deaths caused by home fires from analog cigarettes even with the fire retardant. So finally, this hoopla is brought into perspective:

USDA PRIME GRADE AAA BULLSHIT

I have seen sensationalized photos and news stories of some of these supposed "my e-cigarette blowed up" stories. Hoaxes. With purported "testimony" that they know smoking e-Cigarettes is not cool but they did it anyway and lying in a hospital bed they just want to steer everybody away from them and oh how terrible the photos look with burned faces, teeth missing and even a sink broken. A news story from a United Kingdom online click bait rag known for hoaxes reporting about an event in BF Idaho for example. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that a number of these are hoaxes, attempts to get rich quick off of advertising and or litigation, and outright people trying to "smoke" things in their e-cigarette that they shouldn't be. LOL in fact, statements like "smoke" an e-cigarette, and "I know it's not cool" are dead giveaways something is amiss. Vapers know you do not "smoke" an e-cigarette, you VAPE an e-cigarette. Further, what is the point of a statement like "I know it ain't cool" with half your face blown off? I mean really? ROTFLOL Vaping and "cool" is neither here nor there. It's worse than apples and oranges. Vaping is about NOT smoking, better life, extending life expectancy, and harm reduction. Smokers that switch for harm reduction not because it is cool or not cool.

I also have thought that maybe somebody already has or will vape something other than e-liquid. Something that shouldn't be. In fact I can think of two things right off the bat that could explode if stoichiometric concentrations are reached within the atomizer, e.g. alcohol. But NOT e-Liquid. And I know, I just know there are darwin awards that have tried it, especially after their brains were fried long ago.

But now with that said:

THERE ARE REAL EVENTS AND THEY CAN CAUSE SERIOUS DAMAGE TO PERSON AND PROPERTY INCLUDING DEATH

I cannot emphasize that enough. Much of what you hear is bunk. But there are real events. Two deaths so far (2.6.2019) from a Li-Ion cell used in an e-Cigarette. Users that experience real events, and live to tell the tale, will have lessons learned to share with everyone and those lessons learned are NOT to stop vaping. The lesson learned is to learn battery safety.


I have lots of Li-Ion battery cells and packs around like most do. And very many e-Cigarettes. I have never had an event. I have left batteries sit too long and have thrown them out. To dispose of them properly call 1-877-2-RECYCLE or go to www.call2recycle.com.

So I consider all these things when using an e-cigarette. I am putting something near my face. I pay attention, learn, know what to look for, what to do and what not to do and always use reputable gear from reputable sources.


 WHAT SHOULD MANUFACTURERS DO?

The responsible battery cell manufacturers Sony and LG are doing everything they can. They take this stuff very seriously. And I know they continue to improve manufacturing processes to increase quality, production yield and limit liability. But there are two things that we can do in the e-cigarette mod itself and all battery chargers. Actually these two things should have been done in e-cigarettes from day one like Child Resistant Packaging. And I know the FDA is looking into it with a "panel" doing an "investigation". Only the Good LORD knows what they will come up with. "Hi, I'm from the Government and I'm here to help!". Regardless of what crap they come up with, here are the two things:

1. Every mod should have a fuse rated for the intended battery(s). Especially a mech mod. If the cells are in series then one fuse. If the cells are in parallel then one fuse for each cell. Preferably PPTC resettable.

2. Temperature Control for the batteries. A simple temperature sensor like the TMP36 read by the microcontroller in an advanced mod (not mech) can suspend operation (load or charge) through SW once battery temperature attains a programmed limit. Mechanical devices can use a temperature sensitive switch like those found on temperature protected motors, water heaters, etc. These sensors and control should be in both mods AND chargers.

3. Supply a protective battery case or battery condom with mods. I carry two complete mods when I travel. I don't carry spare batteries. And I have battery cases. I just use them for storage. Most people carry a spare battery. It only makes sense to supply a minimal cost battery condom.

These are very easy to do and the cost is minimal, less than $1.

So I know the FDA will come up with complete garbage. But this is what will really works and needs to be done.

I urge manufacturers to go ahead and do this. Especially Vaporshark, EVOLV, Hohmtech, Provape and all U.S. based designs. I know you want to wait because you are going to have to do what the FDA panel finds in all likelihood but you know this is technically sound and the right thing to do regardless of what crap they come up with. Which we know the FDA regulation will be negative, onerous and without a single solution that works. These solutions work.


   

 

 

All the information contained in these pages are only the opinions of the author and the author is not an expert at anything.