• Question: How dangerous is the testing stage of new batteries

    Asked by maun440net on 20 Oct 2021.
    • Photo: Natasha Marchant

      Natasha Marchant answered on 20 Oct 2021:

      It can be quite dangerous as we can’t be sure how the material will behave! We always start small with a coin cell battery (similar size to Β£2 coin) and then scale up. My job as an analytical scientist is actually quite important as I can flag if properties of the material are different to what we’ve seen previously. We also have lots of safety controls in place within our battery testers to ensure that, if something goes wrong, it is contained within the tester or that testing is stopped if a battery shows strange behaviour.

    • Photo: Ferran Brosa Planella

      Ferran Brosa Planella answered on 21 Oct 2021:

      There are certainly some risks, but a lot of work is put into place to make sure the tests are safe. For example, if the batteries are tested under very extreme conditions this is done inside special metal containers that can resist even if the battery explodes.

    • Photo: Chris Muir

      Chris Muir answered on 21 Oct 2021:

      As engineers we have a responsibility to ensure tests are safe. We take every reasonable precaution to ensure that even exciting (e.g. fire / penetration tests) are in a very controlled manner.

      In the same way, a rocket launch is incredibly dangerous: setting fire to a huge amount of fuel. However, it is managed in a controlled way to reach a goal – sending the rocket up!

    • Photo: Michael Hills

      Michael Hills answered on 21 Oct 2021:

      As the other scientists have pointed out, we try have as many safety stops and features in place as we can, from testing the material before it goes into a battery all the way up to “bomb cases” while they are running.
      But even if a battery does go wrong while its testing, one of the the main results of it failing tends to be swelling or gassing, which can lead to the metal casing bursting or inflating the pouch in which the battery is stored. The gasses can be somewhat nasty and that is why many battery testers have their own little chamber to stop the gasses coming from the battery and straight into the lab where people could be working!

    • Photo: Rohin Titmarsh

      Rohin Titmarsh answered on 21 Oct 2021:

      Great question! When testing new chemistries it can be potentially dangerous but generally chemistries are becoming safer. Tests are done at small scales first building up to the full sized cylindrical, pouch or other types of cells. When testing at module or pack level the tests are done in facilities that can deploy extinguishing materials and contain the gases and energy release if something goes wrong.