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  • Fire extinguisher for Lithium chemistries

    I was watching some EVTV episodes (after being pointed to the excellent white papers on that site by others on this forum) and saw Jack Rickard talking about the fire extinguishers they had just gotten in after setting a car's lithium battery pack on fire and being unable to extinguish it. It was a 2.5gallon dispenser for this stuff called Spectrum Firebane (http://spectrumfx.net/products.html), which is evidently water-like and can both cool and extinguish a lithium fire. The manufacturer appears to be focusing on small ones for airlines (laptop fires), but Jack got some big ones to use in his shop. The demo videos are pretty impressive. So is the price : )

    My cells are LFP and I personally see no justification for using any of the other chemistries in an RE system...but i know for sure that people are in fact doing just that, with salvaged battery packs from EVs and such. I'm running into them more and more in the RV community. I want an extinguisher for my own rig but also would like to help others get them for their own - especially those using other chemistries. I should have had the extinguisher before I even bought the cells but this reality took a while to sink in for me.

    The only other option I know about for a lithium fire is a correctly-specified class D type; I believe graphite powder is the right choice (?). I found this one for a price similarly impressive to the Firebane: http://www.safetyemporium.com/09747.

    Does anybody here have experience dealing with a Lithium battery fire? Any thoughts on the water-like firebane vs. a graphite agent, especially when dealing with batteries in a 'battery box' which may have limited access for applying the agent? Any other ideas about suppression?


    - Jerud
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  • #2
    I would not like to put graphite on a hot fire. It is pure carbon and can burn.

    Common things that can contain a fire (but not extinguish it) is plain water softener salt (fine), baking soda, beach sand. Have a couple buckets full .

    [B] Check with your local FD, see what they want you to use is the best answer.[/B]

    Powerfab top of pole PV mount (2) | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister

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    • #3
      Originally posted by zamboni View Post
      The only other option I know about for a lithium fire is a correctly-specified class D type; I believe graphite powder is the right choice (?). I found this one for a price similarly impressive to the Firebane
      Lithium Ion Batteries are Class B. Lithium Metal fires are Class D. Lithium Ion fires are extinguished with cooling agents like CO2, Foam, and water with copper powder. Lithium Ion fires are Thermal Runaways, thus you must use a cooling agent. Secondly even when extinguished initially they can reignite from Thermal Runaway. This is why EV Auto manufactures recommend placing an EV in quarantine for 48 hours.
      Last edited by Sunking; 04-04-2018, 10:41 PM.
      MSEE, PE

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Sunking View Post

        Lithium Ion Batteries are Class B. Lithium Metal fires are Class D. Lithium Ion fires are extinguished with cooling agents like CO2, Foam, and water with copper powder. Lithium Ion fires are Thermal Runaways, thus you must use a cooling agent. Secondly even when extinguished initially they can reignite from Thermal Runaway. This is why EV Auto manufactures recommend placing an EV in quarantine for 48 hours.
        The "lithium metal fire" you describe -- re-igniting and requiring a cooling agent -- sounds exactly like what the manufacturer shows in their videos of burning laptop batteries for the Firebane product. That is what makes me think a different type of extinguisher is needed. Why is it that a Lithium-ion battery is considered class B then? Isn't it, a least in part, a "lithium metal fire"? If it's truly class B, my regular kitchen ABC extinguisher is adequate, which is not the impression i get from the videos.

        But there is truth, and then there is marketing.

        As for asking the local FD...forgive me but I've had far too many experiences with "the authorities" being completely ignorant. I'm not saying I'm not going to ask...but i want some other inputs, too. I have to wait 'till i get to a big enough city that the FD comprises anything more than a few temporarily-sober volunteers before i can get a solid response, anyway. I spend a lot of time in the sticks : )

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        • #5
          ABC fire extinguishers are designed to cover Class A, B and C type fires. The kitchen type also tend to be too small to put out any large fire.

          A laptop use lithium ion batteries so a fire they create can be put out using an extinguisher that includes a "Class B" rating (carbon dioxide or dry chemical) which cools and smother the fire from oxygen.

          A lithium metal fire can't be put out by cooling it so a Class D (dry powder and much different from dry chemical) has to be used which is supposed to smother the fire.
          Last edited by SunEagle; 04-09-2018, 03:37 PM.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by SunEagle View Post
            A laptop use lithium ion batteries so a fire they create can be put out using an extinguisher that includes a "Class B" rating (carbon dioxide or dry chemical) which cools and smother the fire from oxygen.
            Unfortunately as the electrolyte in a li-ion battery decomposes it generates oxygen, so removing external oxygen won't put it out.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by zamboni View Post
              The "lithium metal fire" you describe -- re-igniting and requiring a cooling agent -- sounds exactly like what the manufacturer shows in their videos of burning laptop batteries for the Firebane product. That is what makes me think a different type of extinguisher is needed. Why is it that a Lithium-ion battery is considered class B then? )
              I think you are making a mistake and confusing Lithium Ion batteries and Lithium Metal batteries. They are not the same thing.

              Lithium Metal batteries are primary cells (non-rechargeable) and use lithium metal, and require Class D fire extinguishers. Class D is for [U]burning metals.[/U]

              Lithium Ion batteries are secondary cells (rechargeable) and do not have any lithium Metal in them and require a Class B extinguishers are for [U]flammable liquids[/U] (electrolyte). CO2, and cooling agents work best. NOT PLAIN WATER. You want to freeze the battery to stop the thermal runaway. Cutting off oxygen just makes it mad.

              There are fire extinguishers specially made for Lithium Ion batteries that use Water and an agent called F-500. It can be used on both Class A and B fires. [B][I][U]Here is one of them.[/U][/I][/B]

              Last edited by Sunking; 04-09-2018, 07:34 PM.
              MSEE, PE

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              • #8
                Originally posted by jflorey2 View Post
                Unfortunately as the electrolyte in a li-ion battery decomposes it generates oxygen, so removing external oxygen won't put it out.
                Surprising the "dry chemical" type is still considered Class B yet I would imagine it would not really "cool" as opposed to "smother" a fire.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by SunEagle View Post
                  Surprising the "dry chemical" type is still considered Class B yet I would imagine it would not really "cool" as opposed to "smother" a fire.
                  Well Class B is for flammable liquids like gas, diesel, and technically a Li for is liquid, but not every Class B will work. I know FD's use water on Li, but they have respirators and PPE to protect their lungs and skin from fluoride gas produced when water is used. Lots of controversy from all organizations and countries on how to extinguish lithium Ion fires. One great example is from the FAA instructing flight attendants to use bottled water.

                  Bottom line is if a lithium battery fire starts, get out of Dodge and let the sheriff kill it. Deal with the mess and destruction later.

                  MSEE, PE

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                  • #10
                    This site has a paragraph - easily missed below the "specifications" table -- which seems to support SunKing's assertion that "lithium metal" batteries are class D but that term strictly means non-rechargeable cells, whereas "lithium ion" are rechargeable and can be handled with ABC extinguishers. In situations where nomenclature can be easily mixed up I do prefer to find an abundance of information before being satisfied, but this does appear to be heading towards an answer.

                    Also supporting SunKing's explanation is this report by the NFPA, dated 2011. It states:
                    Lithium-ion cells do not contain metallic lithium in any significant quantity to affect fire suppression; in lithium-ion cells, Li+ ions function simply as carriers of electric charge. In contrast, lithium primary (lithium metal) batteries contain a significant mass of metallic lithium as their anode material.
                    LFP is still a [I]type[/I] of lithium-ion, even if it's not as risky as other chemistries which are collectively referred to as "lithium ion", right? So it's correct to think of LFP as being the same type of battery even though consumers may distinguish between "lithium ion" and "LFP" aka "LiFe" aka LiFePO4 etc.

                    A couple other interesting nuggets from the same paper:
                    [QUOTE]
                    This testing also demonstrated a unique hazard associated with fires involving lithium-ion cells and battery packs: that without sufficient cooling, cell thermal runaway reactions can occur significantly after flame suppression

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                    • #11
                      Oh hell, the forum software ate a huge chunk of my post. I thought i had purged all the weird characters but something odd must have copy/pasted in from the paper i was reading. Half hour of my life i won't get back...and i ain't re-writing it. Executive summary is: [LIST=1][*]NFPA has several passages which support SunKing's statements about LFP and lithium-ion battery fires.[*]There isn't a whole lot of research publicly available (at least not in 2011)[*]The NFPA paper has several interesting passages which i found helpful and tried to quote for y'all but now you have to go read it yourself. Most of the stuff i found was in chapter 6.[*]Class B should do the job, although it sounds to me like it would be wise to double-up on the size of extinguisher because excess cooling capability is needed to combat re-ignition. I like the idea of one of those "fire balls" in the battery compartment, backed up with a portable extinguisher.[/LIST]
                      I'm still looking for a more current source but this paper seems pretty solid for now. I'd love to hear from anybody with real-world experience. I saw Mike90250 mention elsewhere that he knew of some systems near him that caught fire, but no mention of how those were extinguished.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by zamboni View Post
                        ...I'm still looking for a more current source but this paper seems pretty solid for now. I'd love to hear from anybody with real-world experience. I saw Mike90250 mention elsewhere that he knew of some systems near him that caught fire, but no mention of how those were extinguished.
                        They were drug outside and left to burn out . Just steel chassis frame and bits of connectors left.

                        Powerfab top of pole PV mount (2) | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
                        || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
                        || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

                        solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
                        gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by zamboni View Post
                          [LIST=1][*]NFPA has several passages which support SunKing's statements about LFP and lithium-ion battery fires.[/LIST]


                          I'm still looking for a more current source but this paper seems pretty solid for now. I'd love to hear from anybody with real-world experience. I saw Mike90250 mention elsewhere that he knew of some systems near him that caught fire, but no mention of how those were extinguished.
                          Well keep looking please and do not take my word as final. I am not comfortable with my stance. Allow me to clarify. Technically a Lithium Ion battery is Class B Flammable Liquid. However it does not quite burn like say gasoline, oil, or diesel. You can easily extinguish those with a Dry Chemical Class B extinguishers. Initially you can extinguish a Lithium Ion fire with Dry Chemical, but it will likely reignite itself from a Thermal Runaway reactions and gasoline and oils will not do that. What I am driving at not any Class B Extinguisher will work. It has to have a Cooling Agent to stop the Theremal Runaway process. With Lithium Ion you have to take way more than just oxygen, you got to also take away the heat side of the equation.

                          I am thinking eventually Lithium Ion will have a Class of it owns extinguishers and you can already see that in the works as manufactures already make extinguishers just for Lithium Ion batteries. Some FD's already have special equipment. Forget what they call it but a special sprayer that turns high pressure water into large volumes of water vapor that cools rapidly and displaces oxygen momentarily. FD's in areas with a lot of EV's have them like LA. Bet Neil Young wished they had that when he lost his garage and car collection when his EV went up.
                          Last edited by Sunking; 04-16-2018, 10:55 AM.
                          MSEE, PE

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Sunking View Post

                            Well keep looking please and do not take my word as final. I am not comfortable with my stance. Allow me to clarify. Technically a Lithium Ion battery is Class B Flammable Liquid. However it does not quite burn like say gasoline, oil, or diesel. You can easily extinguish those with a Dry Chemical Class B extinguishers. Initially you can extinguish a Lithium Ion fire with Dry Chemical, but it will likely reignite itself from a Thermal Runaway reactions and gasoline and oils will not do that. What I am driving at not any Class B Extinguisher will work. It has to have a Cooling Agent to stop the Theremal Runaway process. With Lithium Ion you have to take way more than just oxygen, you got to also take away the heat side of the equation.
                            The NFPA paper actually says exactly that. I had included several excerpts but that's what the forum ate. The paper specifically clarifies a two-part approach of first extinguishing the flame, then cooling the material aggressively to prevent reignition. For example Halon then class B, or even just water. Both jobs can be done by a class B -- and they don't explicitly say this, but i'm assuming this means you need to use a lot more suppressant for a Lithium-ion fire than you would use for a conventional one.

                            I have, however, seen videos of laptop fires which were put "out" with water, looked "out", then were doused with more water and immediately flared up again as if in response to the water. So, i'm not loving the idea of straight up water.

                            Originally posted by Mike90250 View Post
                            They were drug outside and left to burn out . Just steel chassis frame and bits of connectors left.
                            Hm yeah, that's not really how i want to handle it!

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                            • #15
                              They were drug outside and left to burn out .
                              Originally posted by zamboni View Post
                              Hm yeah, that's not really how i want to handle it!
                              That's the best way to handle it, unless you want to burn the rest of the place down and deal with the toxic fumes. 2 years ago, sand or salt or baking soda was the only way, and that wasn't really anything more than covering up the mess and letting it react under the glop you piled on it. i don't even know about the residual fumes from the fire, if you have to repaint to seal the walls or if they will dissipate over a couple months time

                              Powerfab top of pole PV mount (2) | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
                              || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
                              || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

                              solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
                              gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister

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