Lithium Batteries: Do They Really Leak?

The power-packed lithium batteries have become a go-to choice for various devices, thanks to their high energy density and minimal self-discharge. But they have a potential hiccup – leakage.

Imagine a battery as a minuscule fuel tank. Inside, a lively dance of lithium ions occurs, powering your devices or self-discharging. The liquid electrolyte decomposes, liberating hydrogen gas. The pressure from this gas sometimes causes battery acids to seep out.

Leaky batteries are not just annoying, they can cause significant device damage and pose safety risks. So, what leads to such leaks in lithium batteries? Can we prevent them?

This piece explores the nitty-gritty of battery leaks and shares insights on how to circumvent them. Stay tuned.

1. Do Lithium Batteries Leak?

Lithium batteries rarely leak. There’s a slim chance, like any battery, but precautions can minimize it. Always verify the battery’s capacity. Ensure your gadget can handle the battery-generated voltage, or that the battery’s voltage suits your equipment.

Using lithium batteries keeps your devices powered up consistently. Even when left plugged in for extended periods, these batteries remain stable without any operational changes. Unlike alkaline batteries that vent under pressure and moisture, lithium batteries stay intact.

Lithium batteries are safe, provided necessary leak prevention measures are taken. Their light weight and durable power make them increasingly popular. Normally, lithium batteries do not leak. But, store them in a cool, dry place with 50%-70% charge for best results.

Do lithium batteries leak - manly

2. Lithium Battery Types & Leak Vulnerabilities

Various types of lithium batteries exist, and each can leak if mishandled.

Lithium-ion batteries top the popularity list. You’ll find them in cell phones, laptops, and electric vehicles. Their power is commendable, but they’re delicate. Any fall or jolt can trigger leakage.

Lithium-polymer batteries resemble lithium-ion batteries but use a different electrolyte. Commonly found in medical devices and electronic cigarettes, these batteries, like their lithium-ion counterparts, are sensitive and prone to leakage upon damage.

Lithium iron phosphate batteries, a newer lithium battery type, use iron instead of cobalt, decreasing their leakage likelihood. However, they’re less potent than other rechargeable batteries and have a shorter lifespan.

The latest lithium batteries are lithium-sulfur batteries, made with sulfur instead of lithium, making them more eco-friendly. They’re less prone to leakage compared to other lithium battery types.

3. Reasons for Lithium-ion Batteries Leakage

  • Overcharging: Overcharging your lithium batteries can lead to electrolyte breakdown inside. This results in gas production, causing the battery to expand. If the pressure is too high, the battery can burst open, leading to leaks. To combat this, electric vehicles and LEVs feature an overcharge protection circuit that stops charging once the battery is full, preventing overcharge-induced leaks.
  • Physical Damage: Any damage to the lithium-ion battery, like being dropped or punctured, can also lead to leaks. This damage may cause the electrolyte to mix with other battery components, triggering a chemical reaction and leakage. Top-rated lithium battery manufacturers conduct drop tests to gauge a battery’s structural integrity and resistance to impact. Purchasing from reliable brands like Tritek Battery ensures your battery is less likely to leak.
  • Manufacturing Defects: Rarely, manufacturing defects can cause battery leaks. This usually stems from issues with the seals designed to contain the electrolyte inside the battery. If these seals aren’t appropriately created, they may allow the electrolyte to leak. Opting for new batteries from reliable sources helps circumvent this problem. Trusted lithium cell battery manufacturers with quality offerings include CATL, LG, Sony, Panasonic, and Samsung.
  • Temperature: Extreme temperatures can trigger lithium battery leaks. High heat can deteriorate the electrolyte, allowing it to escape. Hence, it’s crucial to store lithium batteries in cool, dry conditions. Adhering to manufacturers’ storage guidelines can help prevent this kind of battery leakage.

3.1 For Pouch Lithium Battery

The packaging process is crucial for battery sealing and directly impacts battery performance. To understand the primary causes of pouch lithium battery leakage, we must analyze it based on the type of leakage. Broadly speaking, leakage from aluminum-plastic film can be categorized into three types:

3.1.1. Chemical Erosion:

In lithium-ion batteries, Hydrofluoric acid (HF) is produced due to the reaction between the electrolyte and moisture. HF, a notably corrosive acid, can severely damage aluminum-plastic films, electrolyte collectors, and cathode materials. Below are the related chemical reactions:

LiPF6 -> LiF + PF5

PF5 + H2O -> POF3 + 2HF

3.1.2. Electrochemical Erosion:

Leakage in pouch lithium batteries due to electrochemical reactions can be trickier to spot. As the battery ages, leakage tends to worsen. This failure mode has a long latency period and can rapidly erode customer trust when it manifests.

Electrochemical corrosion generally occurs under two conditions:

  • Ion Short Circuit: An ion short-circuit pathway is created between the aluminum layer of the aluminum-plastic film and the anode.
  • Electronic Short Circuit: The aluminum layer of the aluminum-plastic film forms an electronic short-circuit path with the anode.
  • Unconscious Contact: The negative electrode ear unintentionally contacts the external aluminum layer.

Post-corrosion of the aluminum layer, moisture can freely penetrate into the battery, causing severe damage and visible leakage in the soft-pack battery.

3.2 For Cylindrical Lithium Battery

Major issues: Excessive internal pressure and poor-quality external packaging.

During battery manufacturing, certain hiccups can trigger battery leakage:

Poor welding or sealing at the battery shell and cap can cause leakage. Missed welding spots or cracks at the welds are prime suspects. Inaccurate steel ball size during sealing, or a mismatch in material between the steel ball and the cap, can lead to leaks. The cap’s positive electrode is loosely riveted, leaving gaps. Inappropriate elasticity of insulating gaskets, corrosion susceptibility, and easy aging can all cause leaks.

Potential usage issues include:

Unoriginal batteries, overly high voltage or current. Frequent bumps during normal use, showing insufficient battery internal strength. Abnormal charging leading to overcharging, or high current discharge (damaging the battery’s high current protection system).

12v 100ah lifepo4 battery - manly

4. Ensuring Your Lithium Batteries Don’t Leak

  • Cool, Dry Storage: Store lithium batteries in a cool, dry environment. Ideal storage temperatures range from 32°F to 77°F (0°C to 25°C). This helps to extend battery life and avert leaks.
  • No Overcharging: Overcharging can lead to battery leaks. If you’re using a lithium-ion charger, ensure it has an overcharge protection feature.
  • Regular Check-ups: Inspect lithium batteries regularly for signs of damage or defects. Replace any battery with visible damage like cracks or punctures immediately.
  • Distance from Metal Objects: Keep your lithium batteries away from metal objects to prevent potential damage and leakage. Metal objects conduct electricity, potentially causing short circuits and battery damage.
  • Correct Battery Type: Ensure you’re using the correct battery type for your device to prevent leaks. If you’re using a lithium-ion battery, verify its compatibility with your device.
  • Avoid Punctures and Drops: Don’t puncture or drop your lithium batteries. This can damage them, causing leaks or device damage.
  • Follow Manufacturer’s Instructions: Adhere to manufacturer instructions to prevent battery leaks. If you’re unsure about any procedures, consult a professional. Avoid purchasing cheap, unknown-source batteries – it’s not worth the risk.
  • By implementing these tips, you can prolong your lithium batteries’ lifespan and prevent leakage.

5. Dealing with a Leaking Lithium Battery

  • Battery Extraction: If you detect a leak, immediately remove the battery from the device. If extraction isn’t possible, ensure the device is off and disconnected from any power source.
  • Proper Disposal: Correctly disposing of a lithium battery is crucial to avoid environmental damage or harm to the device.
  • Battery Replacement: After properly disposing of the damaged battery pack, it’s time for a replacement.
  • For Light Electric Vehicles:Given that these packs comprise firmly soldered 18650 batteries, we strongly discourage self-replacement.
  • A single faulty lithium cell can wreak havoc on the entire battery pack and device. We advise replacing the entire battery pack, as spoiled packs can’t be safely repaired.

5.1 Future Leak Prevention:

To thwart future electrolyte leaks, adhere to the above preventive measures.

Lithium batteries, though generally safe and rarely leaky, still require careful handling. Compared to alkaline batteries, lithium versions are less prone to leaks, producing less hydrogen gas during use. By adhering to these guidelines, you can ensure your lithium batteries last longer without leaks. If you encounter a leaking lithium or alkaline battery, clean it up instantly and dispose of it properly.

FAQ

Q: What happens when a lithium battery leaks?

Lithium battery leakage brings several problems:

  1. Electrolyte leakage stops battery function.
  2. Visible battery deformation, swelling, and cracks.
  3. Potential short circuit in the device.
  4. Irritating gas smell.
  5. Poisonous gas emission.

Q: What triggers lithium battery leakage?

  1. Excessive internal pressure.
  2. Substandard external packaging.
  3. Overly high voltage or current during charging.
  4. Abnormal use such as hitting, piercing, or bumping.
  5. Battery aging.

In short, whether it’s packaging issues or abnormal use, the root cause of leaks is typically internal short circuits.

Q: How do you handle a leaking lithium battery?

Fixing a leaking battery isn’t advisable. Lithium battery electrolytes are toxic and corrosive. Dispose of the leaking battery at a proper recycling station. If your battery is leaking, replace it ASAP to prevent acid damage to your equipment.

Q: Are lithium batteries less likely to leak?

Yes, compared to alkaline batteries, lithium, particularly lithium-ion batteries, are safer as their chemical reactions are less likely to produce gas. Also, lithium battery manufacturing tech is well-established. For safety’s sake, stick to brand-name lithium batteries.