While batteries in common use are generally safe, the question does arise about what happens when they catch fire. This may be because of thermal runaway or physical trauma. Any fire can run out of control; foreknowledge is therefore essential. Especially if you need to extinguish lithium battery fires, and water seems the obvious solution.
How Damaged Lithium Batteries React to Water
We posted a high school experiment further on in this post. We did so because, although this does not appear dangerous we wanted to point out the research assistant wears protective clothing and is not working alone.
This experiment shows that broken lithium batteries are considerably more toxic in the presence of water than other similar-size cells. Hence, we should avoid attempting to extinguish lithium battery fires with water. The primary reason is lithium burns in the air we breathe. And moreover reacts with water to form explosive hydrogen that may develop a chain reaction.
Explainer Video Showing a Broken Lithium Battery in Water
How to Extinguish Lithium Battery Fires Safely
Water is clearly not a lithium battery’s friend. It may ignite during thermal runaway, or in the presence of an adjacent fire. When a lithium battery overheats for whatever reason, it expands rapidly causing short-circuits inside.
This may spontaneously release energy that can ignite adjacent cells when it explodes. Emergency personnel must wear protective clothing, especially eye-protection, respirator, and rubber gloves. Extinguishing a lithium battery fire is not something you or we should attempt. We provide this information in good faith along the lines we understand.
Never attempt to extinguish lithium battery fires yourself. Your health and safety are far more important. Please call the emergency services instead as these are Class D fires.
Preview Image: Lithium Burning Bright in the Night
Video Share Link: https://youtu.be/HfCO7ZV8E7I