back to article Samsung are amateurs – NASA shows how you really do a battery fire

Samsung might think it's the king of exploding kit, what with smartphones and washing machines going up in flames, but in June NASA engineers schooled the firm on how to really make a bang. The space agency was repairing a RoboSimian, a four-legged robot designed by the Jet Propulsion Lab for the DARPA Robotics Challenge, but …

  1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
    Coat

    Wow. Make this a feature...

    Not a bug.

    If a rover/lander has more than one battery, use the spares as replacement landing rockets for when the landing rockets fail.

    (Yes, I know 99% of the crashes are due to software/deployment/distance sensor failures, not the rockets... guess I'll get my coat)

    1. Mpeler
      Coat

      Re: Wow. Make this a feature...

      Near the village, the peaceful village, the Li-ion burns tonight...

      (Grabs me flameproof coat)...

      1. gregthecanuck

        Re: Wow. Make this a feature...

        Congratulations - you win LOL of the day. :)

        Keep your stick on the ice.

        1. A K Stiles
          Coat

          Re: Wow. Make this a feature...

          What 'ave you done now?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wow. Make this a feature...

          I thought it was "keep your dick in a vice". I've been doing it wrong the whole time...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Rapid Uncontrolled INcrease In Temperature"

        RUIN IT!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh no!

    It's the Russian Hackers™ again!!

  3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Terminator

    Intern's name is John Connor, eh?

    "Is it dead?"

    "Terminated!"

  4. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
    Coat

    Only 96 batteries

    How many does a Tesla have?

    1. P0l0nium

      Re: Only 96 batteries

      Nearly TWO THOUSAND !!

      I have witnessed 2 people being killed in a petrol fire and it is not pretty. The limiting factor in the energy release from a fuel tank is the rate at which the air can get to the gasoline.

      The limiting factor in the energy release from a battery fire is ... (insert marketing babble here).

      Its a bomb!!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Only 96 batteries

        Its a bomb!!

        Sometimes it is, certainly. And to think that people are already happily marketing and installing similar size domestic energy storage systems to owners of PV panels "to maximise their income through self consumption". Fitted outside and well away from anything else combustible, a manageable risk, but people are fitting these in under-stair cupboards, or lofts.

        Actual probability of a battery fire is low, the difficulty is the intensity when a runaway starts, that it may be a cell fault, charging circuit fault, physical damage, incorrect installation, or even an unrelated thermal event that triggers a cell into runaway. So it WILL happen sooner or later, and then you've not just got the fire and smoke risk, but the acutely toxic fumes includng Hydrogen Fluoride, Carbonyl Sulphde, .Acrolein, Syrene, Toluene, and assorted other nasties, including cobalt fumes (all varying according to battery chemistry).

        NASA have good reasons for taking these risks. But would you have a similar sized battery under your stairs to save a few shekels on your electricity bill?

        1. Mage Silver badge
          Flame

          Re: owners of PV panels

          I don't understand why people would buy Tesla's Home battery pack. The lead in a Lead Acid battery is about 100% recyclable, pretty simply. It's lead, oxygen and sulphuric acid. It doesn't burn, though it CAN explode if the vents are blocked and it's either overcharged or short-circuited, though it's not very spectacular. They are looking at re-usuable battery cases on cars / trucks so that the batteries can be completely recycled.

          Vehicle Lead Acid batteries are mostly recycled, unlike rechargables in portable/mobile devices.

          There is no weight issue with home PV use, weight is the only reason that Lithium cells are used in cars as actually NiMH can be similar volumetric capacity. only slightly less after several months of use. (They weigh a LOT more). NiMH can last longer than Lithium too.

          Actually perhaps Lithium rechargables should ONLY be allowed in portable / mobile applications?

          It could be argued that Propane made by synthesis from water, waste carbon and electricity solar or nuclear or hydro / wind / wave is more sensible as a car fuel than Lithium batteries. There is actually much more energy wasted within a country transporting electricity on grid and loss of recharging, compared with the energy needed to transport propane from say Sahara to Glasgow.

          I first drove a regular car with regular engine with petrol, retrofitted to propane in 1979. You could use either via dashboard switch. It was regular drilled out of the ground propane, not the new-fangled synthesis. Pure electric cars might be a niche, they would need MASSIVE grid investment even if 1/5th of people used them.. Lithium for home PV panel only makes sense to Lithium battery makers selling Electric cars.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Only 96 batteries

          > Hydrogen Fluoride,

          The stuff of nightmares. Sadly in most semiconductor fabs its not even the worse. Have things like Silane, Diborane (check out the msds diamond on that one), cyanide, arsenic, and many more. Then you hear horror stories how fabs in 3rd world countries in Asia often disable the gas alarms due to cost of false alarms (product much more valuable than people). Makes you appreciate OSHA and winning the lottery of life being born where manufacturing facilities can be safer than your own home.

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

            Re: Only 96 batteries

            > the lottery of life

            It's not a "lottery" because that assumes one just pops into a culture with uniform distribution.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Only 96 batteries

        ISTR that the available thermal energy in the event of a battery fire of a Tesla was on the order of two gallons of gasoline (or somewhere around 8 liters of petrol ).

        OMG, could you imagine if people actually rode around in vehicles with TWO gallons of gas sitting right behind them? The carnage. Think of the children! And some people actually park cars in garages attached to their houses!

        sarcasm aside, there's also the consideration that batteries stay where you put them, gasoline tends to flow everywhere in a worst-case scenario. Ultimate worst case is if the fuel line ruptures in an accident that doesn't trip the inertia switch, then you have gas spraying around at around 100 psi.

        1. Ashley_Pomeroy

          Re: Only 96 batteries

          This raises the question of how intensely a lithium battery burns out its two gallons' worth of energy.

          In the video the robot erupts like a tank "brewing up" - whereas two gallons of petrol would presumably burn much slower.

          There's also the issue of putting it out. From what I have read it's a very bad idea to use water on a lithium fire - the water reacts with the lithium to create hydrogen, which makes things even worse. Petrol is difficult to put out but lithium is difficult too.

          1. fnj

            Re: Only 96 batteries

            it's a very bad idea to use water on a lithium fire

            Yes, burning lithium METAL cannot be extinguished with water. No, lithium ION batteries do not contain lithium METAL (or, pedantically, only minute quantities in free form). Water is fine and effective in sufficient quantities. The FAA tells flight attendants to use water or carbonated beverage on lithium ion battery fires.

            1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

              Re: Only 96 batteries

              Overcharging lithium ion batteries produces lithium metal. That's the fire you can't put out after the electrolyte mushroom cloud is done.

          2. Black Betty

            Re: Only 96 batteries

            Strangely enough, water is exactly what you put on a large lithium fire, provided you have enough of it.

            On the one hand, it's swapping one extremely bad tempered reaction with an at least marginally less bad tempered one. However, the true advantage is in the thermal mass of the sheer amount of water involved, which is capable of carrying away a huge amount of heat, which at least takes care of the thermal runaway problem.

            Now it just has to be kept wet until water has seeped through any and all containment breaches and fully reacted with any exposed lithium. Unburnt hydrogen simply needs to be managed like any other flammable gas at a fire scene.

        2. Mage Silver badge

          Re: Only 96 batteries

          Gasoline needs oxygen, the batteries don't.

          Also your two gallon estimation sounds low unless the Tesla cars have really rubbish range.

          1. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: Only 96 batteries

            Also your two gallon estimation sounds low unless the Tesla cars have really rubbish range.

            Or it just shows how horribly inefficienct an internal combustion engine is...

            Petrol - 46MJ/kg, 2 Gallons is about 6.5 kg or 300MJ, or 83kWh

            Tesla Model S are available in 60-100kWH versions

            So the 2 gallon figure is fair. And, yes. They manage over 250 motorway miles on that (better at lower speeds). Not many cars, let alone executive class saloons, manage 125mpg.

            1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

              Re: Only 96 batteries

              Mileage comparison is rather irrelevant here. For Li-Ion cells, stored electrical energy != combustion energy.

              But yes, equivalence to 2 gallons of fuel sounds about right. 18650 cells have around 1 MJ/kg of combustion energy depending on their state of charge. Larger cells can have up to 2 MJ/kg. Tesla battery pack is about 500 kg. Some of that weight is from cases and wiring harnesses, so 300-400 MJ of combustion energy should be in the right ballpark.

              1. John Robson Silver badge

                Re: Only 96 batteries

                Why is the mileage comparison irrelevant - that's why the 2 Gallons was being questioned as I read it...

                The energy efficiency of an IC driven car is terrible - modern power stations (let's ignore renewables for the moment) run on pretty unrefined fuel and get better thermal efficiency, by some margin, than a car running on pretty highly refined juice.

                When you add in the options from Nuclear, and Wind/Hydro/Wave/Tidal etc power sources then you get a better view again.

                Then you consider that the gaseous pollution can be recaptured at static plants, and isn't being dumped into the lungs of everyone in every city and town across the country...

                And that any improvements to power stations immediately apply to all vehicles in the country...

                There is an awful lot to be said for centralised energy generation, and zero point emissions systems.

                This is what we use for everything else (except household heating, and some cooking) in this country. If we operated more CHP schemes, its district heating from the waste heat of power stations then their efficiency jumps again...

                1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

                  Re: Only 96 batteries

                  "Why is the mileage comparison irrelevant - that's why the 2 Gallons was being questioned as I read it..."

                  I was actually supporting your 2 gallon estimate, just with a caveat that in order to assess safety, we have to compare thermal energy of burning Li-ion battery with thermal energy of burning fuel. Mileage comparison is misleading because electric car gets its mileage from the stored electrical energy, but ordinary car from thermal energy. Apples and oranges.

                  So yes, previous poster was wrong to challenge your claim on the basis of mileage.

                  There are of course other aspects besides available combustion energy that are affecting the burning process - especially the speed and violence of it. For one, fuel needs sufficient quantity of oxygen for burning, whereas Li-Ion cells carry their own oxidiser. Skews the comparison quite a bit.

            2. Eddy Ito Silver badge

              Re: Only 96 batteries

              Yes typical automotive IC engines are pretty poor in the efficiency department and while they can approach an efficiency near 40% the typical load case is far below that so overall 25% is actually pretty good. That said unless you're getting your electricity from wind or solar the typical power plant is only about 33% for coal or nuclear to close to 45% for natural gas so it's only better in the respect that it can be optimized for a particular burn rate while a car has to deal with much greater variability in load conditions. In the end, it's a bit of an apples - oranges comparison.

              Also the battery capacity only counts the usable part which in a typical Li-ion is between about 2.4 and 4 volts so there is residual energy in the cell which isn't counted as part of the overall capacity. Of course the voltage isn't usually well behaved once it falls below about 2.5 volts.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Only 96 batteries

          ISTR that the available thermal energy in the event of a battery fire of a Tesla was on the order of two gallons of gasoline (or somewhere around 8 liters of petrol ).

          Errmm, that's litres, if you please. Of course, I'm an imperialist myself, using proper imperial measures. None of your Yankee short measures, here, please.

          But coming back to the point. This discussion was about domestic batteries, so no matter how few gallons of petrol, how many would you be happy to store under your stairs,in your loft or basement, with a load of electrical circuits around them?

        4. John Smith 19 Gold badge

          "OMG, could you imagine if people actually rode around in vehicles with TWO gallons of gas"

          Voted down as AC --> Marketing droid

        5. Maty

          Re: Only 96 batteries

          Yes.

          I once had the fuel line rupture on a motorbike I was riding at speed down the A10. It sprayed petrol over my legs which somehow ignited. Because I was wearing thick leathers, it took other road users to point out that my lower half was basically a moving fireball.

          A battery would not do that.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Mushroom

            Re: Only 96 batteries

            it took other road users to point out that my lower half was basically a moving fireball.....A battery would not do that.

            Nope, of course not

      3. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: Only 96 batteries

        2000 batteries in a Tesla?

        The number of batteries is less important than the energy density. However, a Tesla is more likely to have human occupants and be involved in an involuntary distortion of the basic structure of the unit [i.e. a car crash], and thereby expose one of the 2000 lithium ion [bombs?] batteries into a potential source for an inadvertent catastrophic disassembly event [read: explosion].

        High density batteries would reach a high temperature faster for the obvious reasons of less mass and more energy applied to it.

        In any case, it's a fair bet that NASA batteries have the highest possible density since they are intended to be launched into space, and rocket fuel is expensive.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Only 96 batteries

          In any case, it's a fair bet that NASA batteries have the highest possible density since they are intended to be launched into space, and rocket fuel is expensive.

          They'll not be much better than the energy density of similar commercial products, because the chemistry is much the same. And even if they vary it, there's still not that much to choose. The other day I was at an industry conference on battery storage, and I asked the chief scientist of a leading cell maker whether there was that much to choose even between alternative chemistries, and she said "no", as the deciding factor is the potential energy stored. Failure modes can be slightly different, but if you've got a battery built to store energy and deliver a lot of power, then that energy is itching to find a quick way out. You can pretend things are different, but all fuels are compressed energy, and the more you compress them the more dramatic the failure mode it. If anything, (having at the same event watched a series of controlled battery failure videos, courtesy of my national safety regulator), the NASA battery fire was surprisingly small and well contained. I'd wonder if not all of the cells actually combusted.

          I'll repeat the point, that the individual probability of a decent product failure is very small - the problem is that IF it does fail, you REALLY don't want to be asleep upstairs.

        2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          "a fair bet that NASA batteries have the highest possible density.." "..rocket fuel is expensive."

          Probably true about NASA but wrong about rocket fuel.

          The fuel cost for a SpaceX F9 is about $200k according to Elon Musk, but the launch price is $62m.

          Launch is expensive. Fuel is not.

      4. Black Betty

        Re: It's a bomb. RoboSimian? Yes. Tesla? Not so much.

        A lot of it comes down to the physical geometry of the battery pack. Exact mode of catastrophic failure has a good deal to do with it too.

        RoboSimian's battery pack was almost certainly designed to be as physically compact as possible, and probably weather, if not completely waterproof. An external charge management system suggests they were using completely unprotected cells.

        Continuous energy input (~150 W)? check. Sealed enclosure? Check. Build up of explosive intermediate reaction products? Check. Yes that's a bomb.

        Compare that to a Tesla motor vehicle involved in a collision, forgetting for a moment that the model S broke the test, earning the ultimate accolade of an "Ayup." and a nod from the bloke who sweeps up after.

        First of all, Tesla batteries, car or domestic have an insane amount of "intelligent" battery management circuitry built in. Backing that up are individual physical fuses on each and every cell in the pack. In both, a massive amount of parallelism keeps the load on individual cells down. Bad cells can be (and are) electrically isolated at the first sign of trouble, almost inevitably before catastrophic failure can occur.

        In crash, the battery, being enclosed within the frame of the passenger compartment is pretty robustly protected to begin with. But if you hit it hard enough it will break. This is where the geometry of the battery helps a lot. The Tesla car battery is laid out as a flat sheet within the frame of the passenger compartment, so it's already pretty well protected there. If it is damaged, it's very unlikely that more than a relative handful of cells will be ruptured and subject to immediate ignition.

        If the battery remains substantially intact, most of the energy of cell that do catch fire will be expended outwards, away from any undamaged cells, meaning that while you might have an unstoppable fire on your hands, it's one that will proceed at a relatively controlled pace, at least to begin with.

        If the car takes enough damage to completely demolish the passenger cell and battery beneath it, chances are that most, if not all of the damaged cells would be scattered across the landscape and not where they can convince their fellows to join the festivities.

        tl;dr Yes fire is certainly possible, but it will either be localised and contained (relatively speaking), or scattered and still localised. No conceivable scenario leads to a bomb.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's a bomb. RoboSimian? Yes. Tesla? Not so much.

          No conceivable scenario leads to a bomb.

          Depends on your definition of a bomb. The NASA incident looks very much like a small but powerful incendiary device, as do all of the videos I've seen of scientifically monitored lithium cell failures. A lithium cell constrained within a metal can (eg packaging like a typical alkaline) will cause modest fragmentation and projectile flaming debris when thermal runaway occurs, I've seen this instrumented. In a car battery that's unlikley to be severe enough to puncture the body shell and injure passengers, but in many installations it is an effective means of further spreading the fire.

          And when things REALLY go wrong, all bets are off. A recent test of a modest sized cell by my national safety regulator managed to explosively deform the test chamber because the gases formed faster than the blast and fume vent was able to cope with - the deformed chamber was a 20 foot ISO shipping container, so not exactly a flimsy structure.

  5. Adam 1 Silver badge

    turtles

    El Reg via Twitter via Engadget via popular mechanics via gizmido via wired via NASA

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: turtles

      Luckily RISIS, the the society for the Rise of the Machines, was not in the churnalistic chain.

  6. frank ly

    Priorities

    "NASA has pledged to have better fire control systems soon."

    How about a foolproof battery management system that doesn't require someone to set it up properly.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Priorities

      I'm also really concerned by their risk management.

      It seems that they didnt realise that charging a li-ion battery pack is a significant fire risk and did not have any of the appropriate measures in place.

      The first one being "do not rely on a human to correctly configure the battery charger for each charge cycle", and the second being to have appropriate automatic fire containment and extinguishants in place during all charging.

      Even model aircraft flyers get this right.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Priorities

      They need some sort of robot that can pick up the dangerous object and run outside with it.

      1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

        Re: Priorities

        "They need some sort of robot that can pick up the dangerous object and run outside with it."

        Unless the robot itself is prone to combustion, in which case you'd need something else to get rid of the flaming robot, and...

        Yay. It's robots all the way down. What's not to like.

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

          Re: Priorities

          Yay. It's robots all the way down. What's not to like.
          Being Tasmanian, I thought turtles and robots were the same thing.

          1. Jeff Cook

            Re: Priorities

            So then it's robotic turtles all the way down.

  7. ilmari

    BMS

    Just goes to show the importance of the Battery Management System..

    Thermal runaway refers to the condition where the battery will not cool down anymore by disconnecting it and throwing it in the freezer. In lay men's terms, it has caught fire, which will inevitably result in venting with flame (explosion).

    How do you reach thermal runaway? Heat any part of it to 130C (some lower, some higher). So just slap temperature sensors on it and cut it off at 70C? Not so fast. It's enough if a small part of it reaches critical temperature.

    Many fires are the result of impurities introduced during manufacture. A small dust speck of metal inside will heat up as current passes through it, and make a small part of the battery much hotter than the rest.

    The low end and high end if the li-ion voltage range does funny things inside the battery cell. The lithium-ions can develop into metallic lithium, which is not reversible, and cause much the same issues as with impurities during manufacture, with the additional bonus of possibly puncturing the separator, causing an internal short circuit.

    The copper used to collect current can dissolve into the electrolyte, and later when it becomes solid again during use, it will appear in random spots in the battery, again acting as a spot heat source and agaib possibly puncturing the separator.

    All this is accumulative damage, a BMS squeezing too much capacity out of a battery cell can gradually make the battery too unstable for use, which results in boom. Most likely during charge, because that's when we see the highest sustained currents normally. There's nothing preventing it from happening during use though, so just because a suspect battery charges without incident, don't relax.

    A properly tuned BMS will be causing just enough damage over time, so that the usable capacity of the battery will have degraded enough that the user stops using it, before the battery's stability has degraded enough to explode under previously safe conditions.

    In other words, li-ion is a ticking time bomb, but manufacturers try tune it to explode way after your device is obsolete.

  8. Cardinal

    Has the intern now been dubbed "Robopop"?

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Happy

      Or

      'Magnus the Robot Killer'

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "but the intern responsible..."

    Surely those last two words don't belong in the same sentence ...

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: "but the intern responsible..."

      This is the 21st century, mon...

    2. The elephant in the room

      Re: "but the intern responsible..."

      I think in the video screengrab you can just make out the Blame Deflector automatically deploying.

  10. MakingBacon
    Mushroom

    Oh dear ...

    Somebody obviously flipped the switch from 115v over to 240v

  11. mIRCat
    Flame

    Maximum accountability!

    You always blame the intern!

    It results in fewer firings and just as may fires.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Maximum accountability!

      I didn't say it was your fault. I said I am going to blame you.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Maximum accountability!

      Considering that the intern is there to learn and gain experience, is not paid, might even be paying to be there, then someone must be in charge of the intern and responsible for said interns education on the job. THAT is the person responsible.

  12. markw:

    Intern?

    No, no, no!

    The intern is not responsible.

    The person who gave the intern that responsibility is responsible.

  13. herman Silver badge

    Man, they must be glad that they had an intern to blame for that.

  14. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Happy

    A new twist

    Assault by a battery.

  15. W4YBO

    How much water?

    "Eventually it was dragged outside and doused with enough water to do the job."

    How much water does it take to put out a lithium fire? Seems like more water would make the fire bigger til the lithium started to run out.

    1. ilmari

      Re: How much water?

      It's futile to put out a single burning cell. However, if you manage to cool down everything else close to the one that is burning, you can potentially prevent a chain reaction and prevent the other 89 cells from going off.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: How much water?

      Sand. Lots of it.

      1. RandomFactor

        Re: How much water?

        "Sand. Lots of it."

        The utility of a good old sand bucket is not to be denied, but every now and then.... http://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2008/02/26/sand_wont_save_you_this_time

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: How much water?

      yes, lithium reacts with water to produce hydrogen gas. oh, my!

      But once you deplete the Lithium enough, and sufficiently cool everything, it would go out.

      Remember, when putting out fires, you use a WATER FOG and not a stream. This has a cooling effect as well as the blocking out of oxygen, breaking 2 legs of the fire triangle. Water fog can do a LOT, even on a class D fire. Just don't spray it on live electrical equipment that's connected to the power grid...

      But yeah, 'pissing' on it with a water stream is probably going to make things worse. It's probably why they dragged it outside so that the REAL firemen could do a proper job on it.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: How much water?

        At least for small numbers of Li-based batteries, water or the drink dispenser cart filled with non-alcoholic beverage is your best bet.

        Do not cover with sand, dude! "Avoid using ice or smothering substances". It's just going to make its burning harder!

        Extinguishing In-Flight Laptop Computer Fires - Lithium Battery Thermal Runway

        Unfortunately, flight passengers are forced to leave behind their mineral water bottles nowadays.

      2. PNGuinn
        Go

        Re: Pissing on it

        So how does Lithium react with urine?

        Full chemical formulae please, enquiring minds etc ...

  16. Mr_Pitiful

    Won't somebody think of....

    The RoboSimian!

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Won't somebody think of....

      Dicks out for RoboSimian!

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Won't somebody think of....

        That's racist against the machines!

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Won't somebody think of....

          Robosimian lives matter.

    2. Huey

      Re: Won't somebody think of....

      If it had sound you'd probably hear "No disassemble number 5" in the seconds before.

  17. Blitheringeejit
    Holmes

    We're coming at this problem from the wrong direction

    All this battery stuff is clearly not fit for purpose - we need to rethink how we do power storage/delivery. I think mobile devices can take a leaf out of the National Grid book on this, by carrying a tank of water on the roof, and generating power by letting it fall onto a pelton wheel at the bottom of the machine, and run away harmless and pollution-free onto the ground.

    Should have no trouble Kickstarting this, it's a stroke of genius, though I say so myself.

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: We're coming at this problem from the wrong direction

      carrying a tank of water on the roof, and generating power by letting it fall onto a pelton wheel at the bottom of the machine, and run away harmless and pollution-free onto the ground.
      Even better, one might think, would be large dams in the mountains as we have in Tasmania. But no, they need to be supplemented by solar PV, potentially exploding batteries, and breeze mills that kill wedgetail eagles. When I point out that this reduces the efficiency and introduces huge amounts of pollution I'm called a denier. So it goes...

    2. Tom 64
      Pint

      Re: We're coming at this problem from the wrong direction

      Those tanks up top will quickly run out, necessitating regular stops for a top up.

      How about we install aqueducts along every motorway and A road for top-up on the go? Perfectly practical.

  18. Yesnomaybe

    Very encouraging!

    Suddenly I am MUCH less worried about the iminent AI/Robot overlord apocalypse.

    1. 080

      Re: Very encouraging!

      "Suddenly I am MUCH less worried about the imminent AI/Robot overlord apocalypse."

      Yep, just one small slug up the lithiums and they are toast.

  19. Hero Protagonist

    That blowed up real good!!!

    n/t

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Falklands War

    During the Falklands War, the MoD failed to provide the Army with enough battery chargers for the portable radios, resulting in some cases in soldiers resorting to heliograph communications.

    Subsequently a cunning plan was worked on - to allow the machines to work on single use lithium cells when chargers were not available. In a meeting peripheral to this, a sergeant from REME suggested providing some heavy duty shorting clips for the batteries so that "if necessary they can be shorted and thrown at the enemy."

    I am now starting to think he had a point.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Falklands War

      "if necessary they can be shorted and thrown at the enemy."

      you, sir, deserve a beer!

      ('Up your Junta' indeed)

  21. bombastic bob Silver badge

    LiIon and LiPo - modern day 'Hindenburg'

    You have to wonder if the use of Lithium in so many devices, because it's a lightweight battery material with high electrical density, is in ANY way similar to the use of hydrogen gas in airships, because hydrogen is twice as bouyant as helium...

    it might be time to re-investigate aluminum-based electrodes within a battery. It's something I read about in an El Reg article some time ago...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: LiIon and LiPo - modern day 'Hindenburg'

      "You have to wonder if the use of Lithium in so many devices, because it's a lightweight battery material with high electrical density, is in ANY way similar to the use of hydrogen gas in airships, because hydrogen is twice as bouyant as helium."

      No, because the use of hydrogen in airships was because helium would have been fabulously expensive whereas hydrogen is cheap.

      Also, the defective Samsung batteries are apparently affecting fewer than 1 phone in 10 000, and ordinary batteries go wrong in a small number of parts per million. Had that been so for airships, they would have been safer than heavier than air planes of the period, as far as fire risk was concerned. Aircraft, after all, carry large amounts of very flammable fuel on board.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: LiIon and LiPo - modern day 'Hindenburg'

        And a reminder that the use of hydrogen had little to do with the Hindenberg disaster.

        'translation of a letter handwritten in German on June 28, 1937, by Hindenburg investigator and electrical engineer Otto Beyersdorff states, “The actual cause of the fire was the extreme easy flammability of the covering material brought about by discharges of an electrostatic nature…” Recently, NASA investigator Dr. Addison Bain has verified this finding by scientific experiments that duplicated the vigorous ignition by static discharge to the aluminum powder filled covering material.'

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    explosive disassembly

    Always a problem.

    Well, maybe ejection seats get a pass.

  23. Haku

    Chinese battery?

    I think this one was... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMuu9NNplWU

  24. SteveastroUk

    What the fuck is the battery management system doing BEING "Configrable" unless its a separate system under active development, it should be totally locked, and beyond the adjustment by any poor bloody intern.

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      I expect they're configurable because you can use the same design to manage LiPo, LiFePo4 and the various other lithium chemistries. Each has a different "safe" voltage range - LiFePo4, for example you don't really want to push beyond about 3.6V if you're aiming to maximum the number of charge cycles. I think LiPo is about 4V.

      Presumably that's the issue - someone selected the wrong chemistry. Although I agree this sort of thing should be locked down unless it's under development.

      Topical: I've just ordered the 9th iteration of my LiFePo4 BMS circuit board today. So it's either not a trivial problem, or I'm a bit shit at it. Or, perhaps, both.

  25. Winkypop Silver badge
    Unhappy

    You'd think NASA would be better prepared for fire

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_1#Fire

  26. rgriffith

    next generation batteries will be even flashier

    I await the next generation lithium sulfur batteries and their even more spectacular fires.

  27. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    So, NASA chose the "Volkswagen Defense" then.

    Curse those interns.

  28. Howard Hanek Bronze badge
    Flame

    Another Possibility

    Are we Satanists haven't infiltrated these organizations wanting to get an early start?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Robo on plane?

    Samsung phone on fire on plane...stick in a bucket. dealt with. one of THESE on a plane...you're doomed :/

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