Even with all their advantages, energy storage systems (ESSs) containing lithium-ion batteries pose the potential threat of fires. Lithium-ion batteries in particular pose a high risk of thermal runaway which leads to a self-perpetuating chain reaction of heat that raises temperatures inside their battery cell over time.
BMSs provide some protection from thermal runaway by switching off power when cells reach dangerous temperatures; however, this only represents part of ESSs’ fire protection strategy. To ensure the safety of personnel, lithium-ion battery fire suppression systems must also be installed in any ESS. These systems detect smoke and heat, and then quickly douse the affected area with fire-retardant foam or other fire suppressant to prevent the spread of fire and protect the battery cells from further damage.
Fire Suppression for Lithium Ion Batteries
Lithium-ion batteries have quickly become an indispensable component of our lives energy storage solutions, but their use poses an increased fire hazard that requires special measures for fire suppression.
There are various battery chemistries on the market, and each presents unique fire risks.
These include significant heat production; venting of flammable gases such as hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons; and combustion of various solids, liquids, and gases depending on their chemical makeup.
These fires can be difficult to put out and, once contained, continue to burn unchecked posing significant safety concerns for firefighters as well as costly delays to response times and response costs.
Thermal runaway is an extremely serious threat to battery energy storage systems (ESS). It can lead to device malfunction, cell degradation, fires, or explosions as well as hinder the ability of systems to function normally.
To avoid and mitigate thermal runaway, batteries must be designed with proper thermal management features, including thermal interface materials, liquid cold plates, and thermally conductive adhesives.
Utilizing these products can reduce the potential for thermal runaway by providing even temperature distribution and effective cooling, as well as thermally conductive vapor chambers which absorb and dissipate heat efficiently.
Additionally, installing specialized hazard detection equipment is vital in order to minimize fire and explosion damages. Depending on your application needs, various off-gassing and fire suppression systems exist that can help detect malfunctioning batteries before they become potential fire hazards or ignition sources.
Battery energy storage systems play an integral part in helping individuals lead greener and more energy-efficient lifestyles. They allow individuals to store electricity should the sun or wind fail to provide energy needed, or if there is an unexpected power outage.
However, they also run the risk of fires and explosions caused by off-gassing from manufacturing defects, mechanical damage or failures, overvoltage, or excessive heat; often without being recognized until it’s too late.
Best practices suggest that manufacturers, researchers, facility operators, stores, and transporters install high-quality gas detection monitors that continuously detect levels of toxic or flammable gases produced by Li-ion batteries, activating alarms and ventilation systems when detected.
Electrolytes are substances with either a positive or negative electrical charge. When these elements are dissolved in water, they conduct electricity by splitting apart to rebalance their charge and conduct current. Salt contains positively charged sodium ions while its chlorine counterpart has negative charges, and these can travel between electrodes at either end of a battery cell to form its electrolyte pool.
Electrolytes play an integral part in many important bodily processes, including water distribution and acid-base balance regulation, transmitting nerve impulses and energy production as well as blood clotting.
Lithium-ion batteries, increasingly popular for grid-connected electric power storage systems, present specific fire risks. Due to their difficult-to-suppress nature and risk of thermal runaway, proper protection for such systems must be tailored specifically to each application, and understanding which techniques may work with lithium-ion batteries is key to proper application and use.