Lithium-Ion Battery Safety

Mitigating Risk and Ensuring Quality

11 October 2016

Lithium-ion batteries are used in consumer electronics, mobile and wireless devices, medical technology and transportation. Their energy density offers a distinct advantage but also presents safety concerns that manufacturers need to mitigate. Additionally, it's important to ensure the safety and quality of chargers, end products and the interaction of all three devices. Here are some considerations that manufacturers and designers should make when it comes to using these batteries in their devices.

  • Certification: UN 38.3 for transportation tests, as well as standards from IEC, CTIA, UN , SAE and UL regulate various lithium-ion batteries, depending on the industry where devices are being used. Additionally, there may be standards regulating the devices the batteries are powering that need to be considered and many OEMs have their own standards in place to mitigate safety risks. Considering these standards and certifications is an important first step in lithium-ion battery safety and quality
  • Education: The lithium-ion battery space is constantly evolving given new concerns being brought to the public's attention and changes to regulations and standards. It's important to continue to stay informed of what is happening within various industries, whether by following standards organizations, reading industry news and reports or attending events intended to provide insights and guidance.
  • Failure Analysis: A thorough failure analysis is one of the best ways to check for quality and safety of lithium-ion batteries, as they can identify failures that happen during development, production and assembly of not only batteries but chargers and the end product. A thorough failure analysis includes performance verification, situation appraisal, design review, examination of supporting documentation, dissection and analysis of failed cells, verification of the failure through testing, material analysis and audits.
  • Auditing: Technical manufacturing audits can be helpful in identifying potential failures to better manage risk. During a technical manufacturing audit the following will occur: information gathering and questioning to understand processes; design and process reviews; identification and examination of critical issues; review of scrap, field returns and customer complaints; confirmation of technical understanding and application of industry best practices; assessment of the likelihood of deviations leading to failures and the potential severity of said failures.
  • System Safety Evaluation: A thorough evaluations of not only the battery but the charger, end-product and how all three components interact is also important. Evaluating the entire "system" to national, international and industry-based standards.

Lithium-ion batteries have proven to be a popular alternative for many industries.

Rich Byczek is the global technical lead for electric vehicle and energy storage at Intertek. He has more than 20 years of experience in product development and validation testing, and is an expert in the areas of energy storage, audio equipment and EMC. Rich sits on several SAE, IEC, UL and ANSI standards panels.