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I always thought (like this guy) that putting out a Li-Ion battery fire with water was a bad idea because of the reaction between water and lithium.

But now I read from one source:

Lithium-ion batteries contain little lithium metal and in case of a fire they can be dowsed with water. Only lithium-metal batteries require a Class D fire extinguisher.

Is this accurate? Can I really use water on Li-Ion battery fires?

And if so, is this safe for batteries of any capacity, or is it dangerous beyond some mAh?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ My initial take on this is that it is not really an electronics question. It is a fire-fighting question. \$\endgroup\$ – mkeith Mar 5 '17 at 17:18
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Oregon State University published this Lithium Fire Prevention Fact Sheet.

For Li-Ion batteries:

If formally trained, you may use a st andard ABC fire extinguisher or water to put out a lithium ion battery fire.

For batteries containing elemental Lithium:

  • Only Class D fire extinguishers that contain a copper powder are approved for combating a lithium fire.
  • DO NOT USE WATER OR ANY OTHER TYPE OF EXTINGUISHER BECAUSE ORGANIC & INORGANIC LITHIUM METAL FIRES REACT HIGHLY WITH WATER AND COMBUSTIBLE SUBSTANCES.

The paper also strongly recommends that you "Let the fire department fight fires." In other words, you should probably only fight them yourself if you absolutely need to.

For more information, take a look at the Lithium Battery Safety and Handling Guide.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure if LiPo batteries should be treated the same was as Li-Ion. Can anyone comment on whether LiPo technology is closer to Li-Ion or Li-Metal batteries? \$\endgroup\$ – Caleb Reister Apr 5 '17 at 18:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ LiPo is virtually the same as Li-Ion from a chemical standpoint. The electrolyte is a polymer rather than a liquid allowing the battery to be shaped more uniquely than a standard roll in a canister. \$\endgroup\$ – horta Apr 5 '17 at 18:58
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From a practical point of view, if I have a Li-Ion battery fire, and all I have is a water hose, I most certainly will try to put out the fire by dousing it with water. It will prevent the surrounding material from catching fire and maybe even preventing the battery from exploding!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd give +1 for "It will prevent the surrounding material from catching fire". However, "preventing the battery from exploding" needs reference. \$\endgroup\$ – yo' Mar 10 '17 at 0:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ That is a personal opinion related to safety that has no reference. Doesn't really belong as an answer. Your arbitrary "answer" could get someone hurt if you're wrong. "...maybe even preventing the battery from exploding!" ... yeah, or maybe cause it to explode. \$\endgroup\$ – Bort Mar 10 '17 at 1:16
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The free lithium in lithium ion batteries travels between the graphite cathode and cobalt (or manganese) oxide anode both of which are soaked in a solution of lithium hexaflourophosphate (or other lithium salts) in ethylene carbonate (or other organic solvents). None of these react dangerously with water.

When you dump water on this, it won't soak in quickly enough to explode.

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