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I have a laptop with a slightly swollen lithium-ion pouch cell. I know this is dangerous and I know I'm supposed to replace it. However, the replacement is half the price of a new computer, the new model will be released in a couple of months so I'm trying to wait it out. I've seen people where the case of the laptop is pushed and the trackpad breaks so I know the swelling can get worse before it explodes, if it gets to that point I'll stop using it but for now...

How do I minimize additional swelling? Removing it is not an option. I found a way to bypass the battery charging, keep it at 40%, and work directly from the power adapter. Or is it better to charge and discharge the battery and at what percentage range should I keep it?

And just out of curiosity. I've been reading a lot about lithium-ion batteries lately. Is it better for the battery to constantly be charged and discharged or to be used less? And how much less? I read that it's actually not good to be left unused or to be left overcharged or undercharged. Is the ideal to keep it at 40% and bypass it when using the adapter? How do I extend its life to say 10 years?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Laptops use lithium polymer batteries? I thought they used Lithium-Ions, and in a hard case at that where you can't see swelling. Let the battery discharge slowly, and never let it charge back up. Run off wall power. The more charge it has the more dangerous it is. \$\endgroup\$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented May 4, 2021 at 2:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Look for replacement batteries from other sources, aftermarket batteries are usually substantially cheaper than OEM ones. \$\endgroup\$
    – Hearth
    Commented May 4, 2021 at 2:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Run it without a battery or check that the battery is cool and use a laptop cooler if necessary and disable unnecessary slug ware from starting up. The thermal runaway has 3 stages from heat rise, each one faster than the previous and the last stage is unstoppable fire or worse. The early warning is outgassing bloat on the sealed bag. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 4, 2021 at 2:35

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I strongly recommend removing the battery as soon as possible. The fact that is has swollen means highly explosive gases have build-up inside.

"Lithium-ion batteries use a chemical reaction to generate power. As the battery ages, this chemical reaction no longer completes perfectly, which can result in the creation of gas (called outgassing), leading to a swollen battery. Additionally, if the battery’s internal layers do not maintain proper separation (due to damage or defect), outgassing, swelling, and even fire can occur. Swelling is the result of particulates getting caught in between the layers of the battery and eventually puncturing the membrane that separate the layers. If the membrane has been compromised, moisture in the air can react with the cell, causing the cell to swell." Source

Keeping it at 40% and working directly on the charger reduces the stress on the battery.

The most dangerous time for a battery is when is discharging and when exposed to heat. To keep it simple, discharging faster than it can provide current will cause instability. Heating it up means, in simple terms, increasing thermal agitation of electrons, thus, resulting in instability. By now, your battery's capacity is no longer how it was out of the factory, so it will discharge much faster and charge much faster. But the process is more volatile. More details about this process, here.

So keeping it at 40% is a good idea. Keeping it at around 30 degrees Celsius is also a good idea. Throwing it away is even a better idea.

When storing it for long time, keep it at around 50%.

TL;DR

Having and extinguisher around won't do much if your battery is still hot from any stress it was undergoing at the time of catching fire. Keep your battery cool and away of any discharging/charging stress.

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While it is true that a swollen Li-ion pouch cell is cause for some concern, the major effect is a loss of capacity (due to delamination) rather than an imminent danger of explosion. That cell is more likely to vent (not pleasant, sure) than explode.

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