What You Really Need to Know About Battery Safety
Batteries. Everybody uses them, but nobody likes to talk about them. Battery safety in particular is not a subject that people like to dwell on, but it is an area that has come under renewed scrutiny as a result of some very high-profile incidents involving Boeing and Tesla.
Like it or not, Lithium-Ion is the battery chemistry that will be powering our industry for at least the next five years. It provides the best performance available to us today as it has a very high-energy density, is reasonably priced, and is safe if handled correctly.
And therein lies the key - "if it is handled correctly!"
Lithium-Ion and Safety
The issue with Lithium-Ion is not that it is inherently unstable, but that it burns without external oxygen. Once on fire, it is very difficult to put out, since most ways of extinguishing fire involve removing the external source of oxygen.
Typically the anode, electrolyte and cathode are constructed as a thin sandwich and then rolled to create a cylindrical canister, often the size of a AA battery. Before a cell can be released to the market, it is rigorously tested both physically and electrically, including, but not limited to, being crushed, pierced, heated up, overcharged, and over discharged. The cell can only be sold after these tests are passed successfully. Thus, a single cell is very safe.
Anton/Bauer® Digital Battery Series.
Now imagine that 12, 16, 20 or even 24 of these individual cells are combined in a pack – which is the kind of configuration used to provide the voltage and power needed for media applications. A second level of safety design is then required to make sure individual cells don’t interact with each other. For example, if a battery is accidentally punctured or crushed, causing an anode and cathode to touch, suddenly it is not just a single cell’s energy that could be routed through the defect; it is the whole pack’s worth.
At Anton/Bauer, we have always known that the way our batteries are designed is very important for safety, and so far we have an excellent record. But just like with cars, we constantly strive to add additional safety features as research and materials improve.
Internal Battery Design
Before choosing your production’s power source, make sure you understand the battery’s design and its safety features. For example, working with our cell vendors, we’ve designed the Anton/Bauer line of Digital Batteries to deliver a new level in safety. They feature a “double skinned” architecture where the cells are individually contained in an impact-resistant, flame-retardant plastic honeycomb, with a one millimeter air gap between them, ensuring no cells can touch and allowing air to circulate to keep the pack cool. This entire cell pack is “suspended” within the impact-resistant outer case, maintaining a five millimeter air gap around it and providing a “crumple” zone to prevent crushing and accidental penetration of the cells themselves by a sharp object.
From an electrical viewpoint, our Digital Batteries are also extremely safe. Thermal sensors continually monitor the battery, and if a rise in temperature is detected, a switch is opened to prevent further charge or discharge. Similarly the charge and discharge currents are continually monitored, and if too much current is flowing, the battery switches off.
The bottom line: Lithium-Ion chemistry is a reliable power source when used correctly, but you need to take the time to ensure that the batteries running your equipment are from a reputable vendor that puts the safety of you and your production first.