The exponential growth of modern lithium-ion batteries (LiBs) has been fueled by the proliferation of many modern technologies, from smart phones to electric cars to storage of green energy production. New chemistries, cell formats and battery designs have emerged for higher energy and power performances to meet society’s needs for portable energy.

On the whole, LiBs have proven to be a remarkably safe power source. Billions of LiBs are produced each year, and only a tiny fraction of them experience failures. Nonetheless, when a LiB cell experiences an internal short circuit, this can trigger a phenomenon called “thermal runaway,” which can have serious consequences such as venting, arcing and fire. Because of the predominance of LiBs in battery technologies these days, helping to ensure their safe production and use must be a priority for modern societies.

UL has conducted extensive research on this subject as part of its New Science initiatives and as part of contracted work UL performed for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in its investigation of the Boeing 787 battery incident. The NTSB has opened a public docket for accessing and exploring the results of the research conducted by the agency (www.ntsb.gov). The NTSB publication includes five UL reports related to research on this investigation.

UL is also hosting a Battery Safety Summit, Dec. 2-3 at DuPont Circle Hotel-Washington D.C. This first-of-its-kind event will bring together leading scientists, engineers, public safety officials and other experts to discuss the risks and opportunities related to LiB technology.

As quickly as new discoveries, chemistries, innovations, and more challenging applications for LiB technology emerge, the safety science of this technology must also advance through continued cross-sector, multi-disciplinary collaboration and exchange. UL believes enhanced collaboration will lead to safer battery technology, greater reliability, and increased confidence by society and public safety officials and will accelerate the introduction of safer products to the marketplace.