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I witnessed an impressive explosion of a lead acid battery when my collegue started an internal combustion engine connected with the battery without disconnecting the charger from the battery first.

What is the reason that charging the battery while using it caused its destructiion?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You can't physically discharge and charge a battery at the same time. Unlikely it had to do anything with the charger being still connected. You either got a steam or a hydrogen explosion, depending on what actually happened which is hard to tell without any information whatsoever \$\endgroup\$ – PlasmaHH Oct 16 '17 at 12:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Did he connect the charger the wrong way? \$\endgroup\$ – user3528438 Oct 16 '17 at 12:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Almost anything will explode if you make enough current flow through it. In case of a lead-acid battery one only needs to make sure the electrolyte starts to boil. \$\endgroup\$ – Bimpelrekkie Oct 16 '17 at 12:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user3528438 He just diden't unplug the charger. It was a battery of a merchant vessel engine \$\endgroup\$ – veronika Oct 16 '17 at 12:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PlasmaHH Maybe charging while the battery was discharging increased the charging current \$\endgroup\$ – veronika Oct 16 '17 at 12:29
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Overcharging the battery will result in electrolysis in the electrolyte (water and acid) and this creates hydrogen and oxygen.

If enough gas H2/O2 accumulates in the battery, then vents out from the internal pressure, when it comes into contact with a spark, it will explode.

Hydrogen is very flammable...

enter image description here

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry same thoughts ... \$\endgroup\$ – Solar Mike Oct 16 '17 at 12:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ No problem Mike ;) \$\endgroup\$ – peufeu Oct 16 '17 at 12:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ ...but the Hindenburg was not overcharged, was it?!? \$\endgroup\$ – Curd Oct 16 '17 at 13:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ the newest fad with the kids these days: zeppelin tuning \$\endgroup\$ – Christian Oct 16 '17 at 13:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hindenburg was badly designed... \$\endgroup\$ – Solar Mike Oct 16 '17 at 13:49
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Most likely it was not the charging or discharging that caused the battery to explode, it was the vibration caused by starting the engine that caused a spark which ignited the hydrogen gas being given off.

All too easy - seen it happen and had to save my mate by washing his eyes out - 3 cars needed to be re-sprayed...

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The battery was damaged, probably a shorted cell. At high current, let say starting current, but this can happen also at quick charge current, the electrolyte evaporated so quick, that formed a high pressure and exploded.

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