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Home : Media : News
NEWS | Dec. 8, 2021

Carderock Conducts Li-ion Battery Burn in the CLASSIC

By Todd A. Hurley, NSWC Carderock Division, Public Affairs

Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division held a lithium ion (Li-ion) battery burn demonstration involving the Charging-capable Li-ion Autonomous Safe Storage Interservice Container (CLASSIC) on Nov. 4, 2021, at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

The demonstration, led by Materials Scientist Dr. Thomas Hays in Carderock’s Expeditionary and Developmental Power and Energy Branch, showed the severity of a potential fire when Li-ion batteries are not properly stored.

Hays and his team purposefully set fire to Li-ion batteries stored in their CLASSIC to demonstrate the importance of safety and lack of hazard in this case with use of the safer storage locker. The CLASSIC is intended to be used aboard ships and aircraft as a way of properly storing these batteries and to mitigate hazards.

“We have been developing safety container technology for lithium ion batteries for all services for years,” Hays said. “We do lithium ion battery safety testing, so we are very familiar with the hazards involved. A number of years ago, the Army had issues with smaller batteries catching fire after training exercises or from improper storage. Since we have some experience with other battery container systems, the Army came to us asking for solutions. We approached funding agencies with our idea, which led to this program of how to do containment and firefighting for these batteries.”

The overall goal of this demonstration was to get the word out on the CLASSIC in order to bring the storage container closer to being fielded.

The demonstration consisted of three phases. First, Hays and his team set fire to Li-ion batteries under no protection, in order to show the full scope of the dangers of these types of fires.

“The first demonstration was pretty spectacular,” Hays said. “We had some burning pieces of the battery fly out almost 75 feet. We even caused a fire in the grass nearby, which had to be put out by the firetruck we had standing by. It did a great job of demonstrating the severity of lithium ion battery fires; in that they are not something you would want yourself or sensitive material near, especially on a ship or aircraft. This first demonstration certainly put on a convincing show of why we are doing this work — that these devices can be dangerous and need to be treated properly.”

For the second demonstration, Hays and his team stored the batteries in a disconnected CLASSIC container before setting them on fire.

“We set the same batteries off to show the inherent safety a locker has by preventing fire and debris from getting out.” Hays said. “This demonstration led to the venting of some smoke and gas out of the rear locker, which is intended to prevent a pressure build-up.”

The final demonstration consisted of using a fully functioning CLASSIC storage locker.

“Finally, we put the same battery load inside our CLASSIC,” Hays said. “We stayed relatively late because we couldn’t seem to get anything to happen when abusing the batteries. It wasn’t until a little while later that we realized the batteries were actually set off, but that our container responded and put out the fire before we could even realize anything had happened. We expected for there to be a small amount of smoke, but we didn’t hear or see anything. This was a better outcome than we had expected.”

Although there was not quite as large of a crowd for the demonstration as Hays would have liked, he is optimistic that he has made an impact, and that his team will continue improving this technology to make it more rugged and versatile.

“There were eight individuals at the demonstration who weren’t from Carderock,” Hays said. “A majority were from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, which is an Army group that deals with batteries. We also had a fire specialist from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and a program manager from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense. We are hopeful that the CLASSIC will be used for commercial transport in addition to military use.”

As Hays and his team continue advancing their technology, they hope to do another demonstration event like this in the near future. Hays also intends to take this technology to next year’s Advanced Naval Technology Exercise.

“The overall hope is for decision makers to see our product and decide to fund or support us in the technology transition process,” Hays said. “Some funding agencies are more aimed towards getting products that have proven to work, so it is nice that we have been able to move into that territory with the CLASSIC.”