Batteries are hazardous cargo and should be transported with care. Businesses take many risks to bring batteries and electronic devices to consumers. That’s why airline carriers have special rules about devices that use lithium batteries. Those batteries can ignite and cause a deadly fire.
Lithium Batteries are Heat Sensitive
Lithium batteries last longer than alkaline batteries. However, they’re highly flammable and must be packaged properly. Take the time to see more at clsmith.com. Scientists learned a lot when a UPS cargo plane crashed into a military airbase in Dubai in 2010.
The crash was one of the worst aviation disasters in that country’s history. Investigators discovered a burnt bush outside of the primary burn area. The bush contained one lithium battery. Apparently, the battery exploded and was thrown a long distance, landing in the bush. Investigators learned the plane was carrying over 80,000 lithium batteries.
Why Lithium Batteries Explode
Lithium batteries explode for two reasons: high heat and short-circuits. Batteries have to stay cool or the electrolyte heats quickly. The electrolyte is the fluid that conducts electricity. Batteries also heat up if the electrodes touch. The battery tries to cool the electrolyte with oxygen. Instead, the oxygen causes a fire.
The Airline Industry
Airline carriers know lithium batteries can explode and cause fires. As a result, the FAA divides lithium batteries into two categories: Li-ion, and lithium-metal. Li-ion batteries are used in phones and laptops. Lithium-metal batteries are used in small electronics like cameras.
Consumer-sized lithium batteries are allowed in carry-on bags and in luggage. Batteries with more than two grams of lithium are banned. Battery fires also occurred with phones, e-cigarettes, and hoverboards.
Lead-acid batteries, like the ones in cars, are very hazardous. High heat damages the packaging, and a fire or explosion can occur. Further, the battery short-circuits if it comes in contact with another battery or conductive substance.
Likewise, the cells on these batteries can leak if packed improperly. Battery spills are especially dangerous for the environment. Toxic substances leak on the ground and into the water below. The only spillable batteries allowed on planes are those used for motorized wheelchairs.
Lead-acid batteries are considered class-8 hazardous materials. Class-8 materials are highly corrosive, and truckers take special precautions. The batteries are carried upright with a special material used between the layers. Additionally, special precautions exist if someone transports damaged batteries. The batteries must be hauled in a non-corrosive container and sprayed with a neutralizing substance.
Carriers have to determine the size of a lithium battery if it’s shipped in a device. Batteries are limited to 1.5 grams of lithium. Further, no more than three batteries may be shipped with a device. Carriers have to make sure the battery doesn’t shift or become damaged while in transit.
The shipping container must be an approved mailer and must have a label that says, “PACKAGE CONTAINS LITHIUM-ION BATTERIES-NO LITHIUM METAL.” Letters must be 6mm in height and in all caps. Shippers also require the terminals to be protected when lead-acid batteries are shipped. Shipping containers must contain a non-corrosive plastic liner.
Hopefully, consumers appreciate all the risks taken to make devices and batteries available to the public. Lithium and lead-acid batteries are dangerous in that they can explode, cause fires, and bring down airplanes. Further, battery spills have the potential to damage the environment.