Have you  ever wondered what’s the worst that can happen if you puncture a battery during a repair?

Out of all the components inside of mobile devices the battery is the one that can potentially cause the most harm to the user or technician, not to mention destroy the device itself. When this happens, it's called a Thermal Runaway. The reason for this is the chemicals present inside of the battery cell are extremely reactive to oxygen, which is why when a puncture occurs, there is almost always an instant reaction in the form of either a spark, smoke, heat, or fire.  In seconds, what appears as smoke, can quickly turn to shooting fire, that sounds like a small jet engine that whistles and cracks as it burns.

Battery fire

Thermal runaway in progress

How can you prevent a Thermal Runaway?  When it comes to safety related to thermal battery runaway, the number one safety item is prevention. This includes avoiding the use of sharp tools near the battery and using caution with screwdrivers. A second item which helps based on our testing is to have as little charge as possible in the battery when completing a repair.

One manufacturer claims that if a battery has less than 20% charge, it is not possible for a thermal event to occur. The lower the charge, the less of a chance of a thermal event occurring in the event of puncture.We tested this theory on 5 different batteries and verified that the claim was accurate.

When you puncture a battery, what's next? Make sure you have at minimum the following safety equipment readily available: safety glasses, packing tape, and a battery puncture remediation kit. The safety glasses protect your eyes from any flying debris. The packing tape is used to quickly seal a puncture area if heat has not yet been generated. This helps prevent oxygen from getting into the cell and stops the reaction from occurring. The battery puncture remediation kit consists of a wide mouth bucket and basic sand.

If a battery is punctured and smoke, heat, sparks, fire occurs, pour the sand onto the device. This stops the thermal event from progressing and minimizes damage to property and yourself. The goal when dealing with a thermal event is to have as little direct contact with the device as possible. The temperature can climb upwards of 1,000 Degrees Fahrenheit which can cause serious burns if coming in direct contact with skin.

Using the safety equipment and procedures mentioned above will minimize the likelihood of a thermal event occurring and if it does, keep everyone safe.

For a better look at this process and how severe a thermal event can get, check out our video from Facebook Live Friday’s where we reviewed thermal events and safety: https://bit.ly/3zMN0GF

-Tech Bob