Probing Lithium-Ion Battery Safety in Mining Environments

Tuesday, October 13, 2015: 15:30
Remington A (Hyatt Regency)
S. M. Lipka, F. Rogers III, D. T. Whitlow (University of Kentucky), and T. Bramel (University of Kentucky)
Lithium-ion batteries are increasingly ubiquitous in portable consumer electronic devices, including laptop computers, cellular phones, and tablet computers. Lithium-ion batteries are also finding widespread deployment in many additional applications and settings, including underground mining environments, where lithium-ion batteries are used as electrochemical power sources for cap lamps, and in tracking and communications equipment.1,2 Battery safety is of paramount importance in any portable electronic device regardless of setting, and is particularly significant in enclosed and isolated areas such as passenger aircraft, or in underground mining environments, where potentially explosive methane/air mixtures can be ignited by a simple spark, which can be caused by shorting and thermal runaway of lithium-ion batteries.

This presentation will summarize systematic abuse testing of different lithium-ion batteries used in underground mining safety and communication equipment, including lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2), lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC), and lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) based cathode chemistries. Prismatic and cylindrical 18650 lithium-ion batteries were obtained from commercial vendors and subjected to both wedge and flat plate crush tests, in order to determine the relative safety of each cathode chemistry under two crush speeds and various states-of-charge (SOC). Battery voltage, case temperature and applied load were recorded for each crush test. Video recording of each crush test was also collected.  In some cases, hard or soft electrical short circuits were caused by crushing the battery, resulting in thermal runaway, rapid temperature increases, and explosions or fires. Correlations will be drawn between choice of cathode chemistry, state-of-charge, type of crush test, and choice of atmosphere (air or methane/air mixtures), in order to determine the most suitable lithium-ion battery chemistry for underground mining applications.


1) Dubaniewicz, T. H. Jr.; DuCarme, J. P. Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries. 2014, 32, 165.

2) Dubaniewicz, T. H. Jr.; DuCarme, J. P. IEEE Transactions on Industry Applications. 2013, 6, 2451-2460.