One fine day you wake up and find your laptop or mobile lithium ion battery swollen to twice its size! Well, besides the cost and inconvenience of changing the battery, it can also get really dangerous for you and the people nearby. So proper techniques and procedures must be followed if this happens, but first and foremost;
What in the world is a Swollen Battery?
Lithium-ion batteries- remember the name! From laptops to smart devices and fitness trackers, these compact and light batteries are used everywhere. These batteries are understandably so popular as they have good energy density, have very low self-discharge, and close to non-existent memory effect.
BUT – and of course there’s a but – these batteries do come with a catch. These lithium-ion battery are usually less stable, and the lithium used in these batteries is more reactive than previously used compounds. These batteries also have very enclosed and stuffy partitions between the cells and the covering, hence the entire battery is pressurized.
Now coming to why these batteries get swollen, well this is part of a fail safe measure. In case the lithium-ion batteries are being run over heated, over charged, or have served their time; the inner cells of the battery starts to expel a flammable electrolyte mixture. Thus, if the battery doesn’t get swollen in order to safely release this flammable mixture, it can spell disaster as it can cause a catastrophic fire.
You can check for the signs of a failing battery by looking at the back of your device. Your device’s back cover might seem slightly distorted, or the frame of your e-book reading device might have an unusual gap, or the trackpad on your MacBook might get unresponsive or stiff.
Usually in the case of a swollen battery, the center is usually inflated upto roughly 150-200% the size of a new battery, and usually in these scenarios, the back cases can’t be properly closed.
But from a mere swelling, things can get a bit drastic as well. As you can see in the picture below, the expansion of a MacBook battery ripped the trackpad right out of the laptop.
Keeping all this mind, lithium-ion batteries are usually really safe. The multiple safety measures built in the batteries like over-charging protection circuits, temperature gauges etc. stop these batteries from the worst case scenario, i.e. bursting into flames.
- How to Remove and Dispose off a Swollen Battery
Now that you know what dangers a swollen battery poses, it is imperative to learn how to get rid of it once you are facing this dilemma.
Although in most cases lithium-ion batteries don’t fail catastrophically, but just because there is a possibility of this happening, you must show respect to it.
- Do Not Charge or Use the Device
Once it is established that your battery is swollen and failing, you must stop using it and look to replace it. At this point you must assume that all safety checks and balances have failed, and you are on your own to deal with hazards that this battery poses. Further charging a the battery in this condition is like putting flame on a TNT bomb.
- Remove the Battery Safely
Not much complications to it, but there is one key thing to remember: NEVER compress, or put pressure on the outer casing of the battery. Because if you happen to puncture the swollen battery while doing so, the compounds inside it will react with the oxygen and the moisture in in the air, and then of course KA BOOM!
- What to do with the removed swollen battery?
There are two things to do,
- Insulate the contacts of the battery, in case they are exposed, with a piece of electrical tape. This is necessary to avoid shorting the terminals out.
- Afterwards store the battery in a cool and a dry place. Always keep it away from flammable things and high temperature conditions.
If you can’t manage to retrieve your battery yourself, then you should take the whole device to a service or specialty battery shop. There you can find people with the right skills to open your device and remove the damaged battery. Just make sure you always dispose your device battery at an authorized recycling center.
You can locate the recycling centers by using a recycling location index like Call2Recycle or by calling your local city/county hazardous material disposal center.
Just to re-iterate the point further, lithium-ion batteries should never be thrown away in the garbage can. Even a brand new lithium battery can cause a fire hazard if it is punctured or shorted out in the garbage can or a disposal truck.
Have you ever had a swollen battery in any of your devices? Do you have any more tips on how to react in such situations? Comment below!