84Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are widely used as a power supply for electronics and electric vehicles, and their popularity is gaining momentum for use in many other applications. Design, performance and safety features pertaining to LIBs are constantly evolving. Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands, one of the top 20 universities worldwide for engineering and technology, is currently investigating lithium-ion battery technology and its behavior under various scenarios. TU Delft dates back to 1842 when King Willem II of the Netherlands founded the Royal Academy to train engineers and civil servants.
Many recent studies have shown that LIBs can pose a fire hazard as they are susceptible to the ‘thermal runway’ phenomenon. Consequently, as demand for LIBs across industries grows, it is expected that fire incidents related to the technology will increase. Since TU Delft is heavily involved with research, storage and transportation of LIBs, it has precautionarily opted to install an effective fire suppression system in the multitude of containers used for these purposes in its designated Test Centre.
The TU Delft Engineers’ fire protection system of choice was FirePro. Its modularity, compactness, autonomy and effectiveness were ideal for protection in this project. Since 2016, the FirePro fire suppression technology has been tested in many LIB fire scenarios by accredited bodies such as KIWA. FirePro technology has also been tested by leading global battery manufactures and it has demonstrated best-in-class performance. The technology is also accompanied by all relevant major and important industry certifications and backed by vast experience in multiple applications.
Risks Involved & Consequences:
Cell damage and thermal runaway in LIBs have shown and it has been proven that it can generate fire and possibly explosions. Regulatory Bodies and Research Institutions such as TU Delft, are striving to investigate the characteristics of the fire hazards to better understand the risks associated with this technology and advise on proper use and protection. A LIB associated fire incident can involve various classes of fire and can also initiate powerful chain reactions including the release of toxic fumes. Their volume can be excessive in which case there will be a risk of explosion too. Under such a catastrophic scenario, equipment will be burned, operations will be halted, the environment will be considerably polluted, and lives will be threatened.
The incident – Results of Implementation:
FirePro Benelux researched, designed and delivered the solution based on KIWA’s guidelines and tests reports to TU Deft. This system can also protect intermodal and other containers and enclosures from LIB related fire incidents.
As foreseen by the fire protection engineers, a fire did occur within one of the enclosures as a result of a thermal runway. The linear heat detection cable alerted the automatic fire suppression system which immediately suppressed the fire. The fire involved numerous battery cells and the runaway may have lasted for hours. The FirePro fire suppression agent effectively and safely contained the situation by preventing the propagation of fire as well as the release of toxic fumes within the TU Delft labs. On arrival of the fire brigade the affected container was opened so that the FirePro agent along with the combustion fumes could be vented out and as a precaution a layer of ABC powder was applied on the spent material.
This incident is a stark reminder that despite the merits of LIBs, they are nonetheless vulnerable. TU Delft, after assessing the risks, decided to implement a tested and proven solution that would mitigate them in an effective and efficient manner. True to form the FirePro system justified itself by delivering the expected performance, endorsing in this way the engineers’ choice to provide the same level of protection to the other LIB containers.
For more information, go to www.firepro.com