International airplane manufacturers and Europe’s largest freight carrier, Cargolux, have banned bulk shipments of lithium-ion batteries as a result of overheating problems.
Specifically, a study published today in Nature Communications revealed researchers were able to image a lithium-ion battery exploding for the first time using CT scans and thermal imaging.
Before this breakthrough, researchers were only able to study data before and after the explosion, not see it in real-time.
Because lithium-ion batteries are used everywhere, in cell phones, airplanes, and laptops, just to name a few examples, shipping them in bulk can be extremely dangerous as the potential for a catastrophic overheating chain reaction is greatly increased.
In order to demonstrate what this disaster might look like, the researchers heated two commercial lithium-ion batteries and recorded the resulting explosion, utilizing advanced imaging techniques.
The material inside the first battery, which featured internal support, reached such a high temperature, it eventually sprayed molten liquid and superheated gas in jets out of its top.
The second test focused on a battery with no internal support, which resulted in the battery blowing its top, shooting the cap of the battery completely off.
The researchers hope their findings will be used by engineers in order to develop safer batteries, capable of being shipped in bulk and in close quarters, without the fear of an explosion occurring.