Battery Venting Solutions

Batteries are useful storage devices of power. The most common types exist in the form of dry and wet cells. Their manufacturing processes vary slightly and the major components are electrolyte, separators, and plates. However, they are all prone to venting, as they release hydrogen and oxygen components from the electrolyte because of its decomposition. Accumulation of hydrogen beyond four percent and its lower explosive limit endanger the surroundings, as it provides good conditions for fire outbreaks and is toxic. Good ventilation is recommended for the storage rooms in order to avoid build up of the vented gasses. The manufacturers are required to improve the manufacturing processes in order to lower hazards on the users. The measures proposed are the production of recyclable batteries to reduce toxic waste. The production of leak proof casing is encouraged to eliminate leakage and venting incidences. An improvement on thermal stability can mitigate the explosion risks and reduce charging time. The batteries should also have higher energy capabilities in order to meet the need of the users at a lower cost. However, the remaining challenge relates to improving thermal stability without compromising the cost and power storage that requires more research.

Battery venting occurs, when the chemical composition of the electrolyte is altered that leads to an excessive release of hydrogen into the surrounding environment. The performance of the battery is affected, as it is not able to maintain the charge to the maximum. Moreover, the batteries must be kept in separate rooms, as the continuous release of hydrogen affects the quality of the air, which is not only hazardous to humans but can also lead to fire outbreaks, especially, when the concentration of hydrogen is beyond the lower explosive limit of four percent (E.H.S, 2016). Excessive venting occurs mostly, when the battery is under charge whereby the load current is greater than required to maintain full charge. The excess current decomposes water in the electrolyte by releasing hydrogen and oxygen from the electrolyte to the environment that leads to venting. Batteries vent that is largely dependent on their manufacturing processes. An improvement in the manufacturing process is recommended to avert hazards, increase shelf life and make batteries safer to use.

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Manufacturing

Batteries are classifiable into primary and secondary cells. Primary or dry cells are not easily rechargeable, and their electrolyte contains solid absorbent material. The disposal of primary cells takes place after use. In fact, secondary batteries are able to recharge to the original pre-discharge condition: they pass current through the circuit in the opposite direction to the current during discharge. Actually, secondary batteries contain wet electrolyte (Dondelinger, 2004). The primary and secondary batteries have a slight difference in their manufacturing process. The key components in their manufacturing are separators, electrolyte, and plates that can be both positive and negative. In the production of wet cells made of lithium, anodes are built with carbon while cathode with lithium oxide for the cathode. Carbon and lithium oxide are kept apart to prevent contamination. A conductive binder is applied to the electrode materials in order to provide a perfect condition for the metal foils to stick on them. Both anode and cathode electrodes are coated with copper and aluminum respectively, and then they are subjected to compression in order to control their thickness. The aim is to ensure that energy storage per unit area of the anode and cathode is equal. Different cells require different length of electrodes. Therefore, coated electrodes must be cut and dried in ovens under intense heat. Later, anodes and cathodes are assembled in a casing with a separator in between them. The separators prevent shorting out, but they have pores, which allow ions of the electrolyte to pass through. The electrodes are connected and the casing is closed. For the safety purposes and usability, vents and terminals must be provided. The entire cell is then vacuum dried, filled with the electrolyte and sealed ready for use (Reinhart et al., 2012). The professional must exercise great care when filling the battery, as the presence of moisture may result in the emission of harmful gasses due to decomposition of the electrolyte. Finally, the producers run tests on the casing in order to avoid leakages.

The most commonly used dry cells are carbon zinc batteries. Their principal components are zinc cans separator and carbon rod. Zinc can function both as anode and container. However, zinc requires a separator to be inserted in order to prevent the short circuit between the electrodes. Later, cathode material and electrolyte are built using manganese dioxide, and zinc chloride among other chemicals. The carbon rod is inserted into the center of the can in order to collect electricity, and the can is sealed. Later, positive and negative terminals are installed in order to make battery ready for use (Dondelinger, 2004). The producers should embark on voltage and leak tests before they release cells to the market for sale. Suitable labels with simple instructions on the face of the battery act as a guide against abuse by the consumers.

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Ways to Improve Battery Manufacture and Safety of the Users

Production of the Reusable and Recyclable Batteries

The manufacturers should move away from the production of non-reusable batteries, as they are harmless to the environment because they have to be disposed of once the charge ends. Such an attribute contributes to the pollution of the environment, as most of the chemicals used in batteries are carcinogenic, therefore, dangerous to human life. The non-reusable batteries have a lower shelf life in comparison to the reusable ones; thus, the use of non-reusable batteries makes no economic sense for the user. Moreover, their performance degrades rapidly by making them incapable of handling equipment with high voltage requirements for a long time (Dondelinger, 2004). Damaged or expired batteries, which would end up as waste, are recycled. A proper waste management technique guards against the pile of hazardous waste. The technique provides room for reabsorption of useful materials, which could be wasted. Although sometimes waste management technique may not be cheap, it may be the only way to deal with the waste that can prevent pollution of the environment in the long run (Tidblad, Berg, Edstrom, Johansson, & Matic, 2015).The producers should concentrate on the production of the products that are rechargeable, portable and harmless to the users.

Higher Energy Needs

The manufacturers should focus on the manufacture of cells with the capability to produce elevated levels of energy required for lower cost and material usage. Such a manufacturing saves on the cost incurred to buy an extra cell to support existing energy needs. Thus,  the technique will save on space the cells may require depending on the size and hydrogen emissions they produce. Lithium made batteries provide good options to the capability of producing the elevated levels of energy, but they have the following associated challenges: they are prone to short-circuiting, they are costly in regards to production and operation and, therefore, they are not affordable to the majority of people (Tidblad et al., 2015). Lithium made batteries may also require proper care, as any contact with water will lead to thermal explosion accompanied by the emission of highly flammable hydrogen, which may result in injuries or destruction of property.

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Leakage Proof Casing

A robust casing of the batteries is required to be able to absorb shocks from impacts or falls. The covers of the batteries should be able to withstand all the forms of shocks in order to avoid spilling of the contained electrolyte mix. The electrolytes are known to compose of highly flammable chemicals. Therefore, any exposure of the batteries to the minimal amount of heat can easily ignite to fire. Moreover, the batteries readily vaporize that affects the quality of surrounding air due to the toxic fumes that form around their point of spillage (Tidblad et al., 2015). Thus, the manufacturers must not ignore the strength of the covers during the production process in order not to endanger the lives of the users of their batteries. Various tests have been devised in order to check on the ability of cells to withstand external forces. In fact, the procedures include impact and shock tests. The tests involve the application of a given rate of impact and acceleration on the cells for some period. In order to pass the test, the cell should remain stable in the trial: it should not leak, vent, and heat or blow up.

Heating

The challenge in the energy industry relates to the ability to develop a battery that can operate at extremely low and high temperatures without causing short circuits internally. The majority of cells tend to lower their cell voltage, when they overheat, and they sometimes graduate to explosions, especially, when the heating persists. In some batteries, venting is used to address heat by releasing accumulated gasses in a controlled manner. however, the technique is risky, as the released fumes are toxic and they may form a good mixture with the oxygen in surroundings to ignite into an insuppressible fire. Lithium batteries are known to be susceptible to higher temperature. Perhaps, such a fact explains the reason why the acceleration towards better cathode materials is prevalent in research, where there is a sudden shift from lithium cobalt oxide to lithium layered with manganese and nickel (Daniel, 2015). The mixture is not only stable in thermal terms but it also has higher energy density to some extent. In comparison to that of lithium cobalt oxide, the failure rate of lithium layered with manganese and nickel is minimal. Therefore, such a fact requires more research on the materials, which can not only improve the stability of batteries without compromising their performance but also preserve the affordability of the cells by the users. The manufacturers should also consider insulating the circuit boards in order to prevent them from short-circuiting once in contact with thermal emissions from the electrolyte. Insulation may be in the form of protective coating or partitions needed to guard the leakage against getting in touch with the wiring (Jeitia, 2007).Vented gasses should be directed away from the user in order to avoid intoxication, possible ignition sources, and overheating problems; the recommendation is that different temperature cycles should be applied to test samples. Elevated and extremely low temperatures are ideal for the test. Leakage, vent, and explosions will demand the manufacture to redesign or review the cells again.

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Charging

Battery cells are required to charge within the stipulated time by the manufacturer. The process should not be slow, but the speed should not be faster than prescribed at the same time. The power storage should be at maximum; it should be as minimal as possible in the case of discharge. In the pursuit of good cells, the producers have incurred serious setbacks, as everything they produce either has sudden energy spikes during charging process or quickly loses off the power. The attempts to improve the setback have compromised thermal stability, especially, in lithium battery manufacturing (Oswal, Paul, & Zhao, 2010). However, various tests have been developed in order to ensure safety before the release of cells to the users. The procedures include abnormal charging and forced discharge tests. Abnormal load tests involve subjecting the cells to higher but controlled currents for some period. The aim is to establish whether the products can withstand extreme charge without causing fires. However, forced discharge tests whether the cell will exceed the discharging limits provided. All the exercises gear towards ensuring the safety of the users and improving the performance and shelf life of the batteries.

Conclusion

Venting of batteries is dangerous, as it releases such harmful gasses as hydrogen into the environment; the accumulation hydrogen beyond acceptable limits can easily ignite into fires. The manufacturers should improve the designs and components of their products in order to guarantee the safety of the consumers. Various measures should be undertaken in order to ensure the well-being of the users: controlled venting, sturdy casing to guard against leaks, and right chemical composition to ensure thermal stability without compromising energy requirements. The environmental considerations should represent a considerable factor in battery engineering, as rechargeable and recyclable batteries save on accumulation of toxic waste associated with batteries. Therefore, rechargeable cells should be favored against one-time use cells. However, a lot of research is needed for the development of the cells capable of maintaining high energy levels with minimum discharge, short charging periods and thermal stability at extreme conditions.

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