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FYI - Potential safety issue with CR123A lithium batteries...

Discussion in 'Flashlights & Other Illumination Devices' started by bigfoot, Oct 5, 2006.

  1. Roy82

    Roy82 Empty Pockets

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    From my (limited) understanding, the problem only exists with 2 or more cells, which may be in a different state of charge for whatever reason, and may discharge into other cells. I believe battery station even sells primary 123's that mismatch on the ZTS testers, and sells these specifically to be used only in single cell lights.

    I think with single battery lights, the only issue may be overdischarging the rechargeable Li-ion type should it be the one without the protection circuit built in. I've only got protected Li-ions, must have read something somewhere that scared me about the unprotected ones, but I can't remember exactly :shrug:
     
  2. Nightwatch

    Nightwatch Empty Pockets

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    Thanks, for the info. I think I'm going to start limiting the number of Lithium powered flashlights I"ll be carrying around. I really only need 1 and that's my Streamlight NF-2. There's no other flashlight task I have that cannot be handled by a more conventionally powered flashlight.
     
  3. Leatherneck

    Leatherneck Empty Pockets

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    One really big gaping hole I see here is the relative safety.

    Lithium cells have a history of failure when there are multiple cells in the light, especially with incandescents.

    So, in the offhand chance you are worried about the possibility of one of these cells exploding violently, it is something one should consider long and hard.

    Also, folks utilizing lithium cell based flashlights would be quite wise to read up on the safety factors.  You can greatly reduce the risks with a few simple steps.

    Here is a scenario that you can read about in the thread I mention below, these are a few movies of the events.  These are not rediculous scenarios, but started out as failures for end users, then I was able to make the same sort of thing happen in flashlights, and also outside of flashlights, for these videos- without abuse:

    The "fireball" one that was just made: http://www.molalla.net/~leeper/vent12sn.wmv
    The 714F one was here: http://www.molalla.net/~leeper/vent6_6.wmv
    171.2F one: http://www.molalla.net/~leeper/ven10sm.wmv
    Another 161F that goes above 700F: http://www.molalla.net/~leeper/vent5_1.wmv
    A 153.6F one: http://www.molalla.net/~leeper/minorv~1.wmv
    The 100F one: http://www.molalla.net/~leeper/100degv.wmv

    This is the link on cpf (which is down for upgrade at the moment):
    http://candlepowerforums.com/vb/showthread.php?t=124776&page=1&pp=10

    Google's cache of the page:
    http://66.102.7.104/search?q=cache:...andlepowerforums.com&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1


    There are a number of tips on how to handle Lithium cells safely in that thread, along with links to manufacturer's recommendations and datasheets.


    Here is a photo of a genuine failure from one CPF'ers flashlight:
    [img width=327 height=640]http://www.molalla.net/~leeper/sure123e.jpg[/img]
     
  4. Lunal_Tic

    Lunal_Tic Empty Pockets

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    Previous post was merged from another thread because it fits better here.

    -LT
    :gz:
     
  5. JonSidneyB
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    JonSidneyB Uber Prepared
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    I have seen cell blow as mentioned.  That is why I took me well over a year and tons of money to make sure that my cells were right.
     
  6. Lunal_Tic

    Lunal_Tic Empty Pockets

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    Jon, was it a CR123 or a Li ion R123 that you saw blow?

    -LT
     
  7. JonSidneyB
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    JonSidneyB Uber Prepared
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    When you see a cell marked Surefire, it is the same cell labeled as Energizer and a number of other names.
     
  8. white_feather

    white_feather Loaded Pockets

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    I have a Surefire E1e with a single cell CR123 Surefire battery in it. Is this something I should worry about? What about t Surefire G2 with twin cells? I love my Surefires now, got someone offering me money for the E1e but not sure. I have two G2's and wonder if I should get rid of them instead.
     
  9. bigfoot

    bigfoot Loaded Pockets

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    From the limited reading I've done, it looks like the lights running on a single 123 cell are far less likely to have a problem. It appears that flashlights running on 2+ cells, where at least one cell is already discharged or bad, can increase the risk greatly.

    Safety-wise, I've been doing the following:
    * Buying Surefire or Energizer labeled batteries (mostly Surefire).
    * Not mixing batteries that have already been discharged. Not mixing brands of batteries.
    * Keeping spare 123 batteries in a Surefire spares carrier or water-resistant plastic container.
    * Keeping spare 123 batteries away from anything metal that could cause a discharge.

    Apparently a pilot had a 123 powered light fail recently -- filled the cabin with nasty smoke and there was a small fire. There is a thread and blog entry going on about this over at the Equipped to Survive website.

    But I'll let the flashlight gurus jump in here...

    :police:



    link shortened - :gl:
     
  10. nylaw

    nylaw Loaded Pockets

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    Can you explain what the mod entails? Does ZTS do it? If done can you still check 1.5 alky's?
     
  11. Lunal_Tic

    Lunal_Tic Empty Pockets

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    IIRC ZTS does the mod and changes one of the less used contacts to the Li AAs, alkys are still on the same contact they always were.

    -LT
     
  12. gearloose

    gearloose Empty Pockets

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    Last night I had a Streamlight Scorpion explode on my coffee table. It set the table on fire and burned a 4 in. hole in my hardwood floors. The light had week old surefire batteries, they were bought together and installed together. Neither was old.
    When the light blew, there was a release of pungent gas and an incredibly hot flame. There was no warning the outside rubber sheath was not melted, but both end of the light left in different directions.
    If the light had exploded in a jacket pocket I would have been severely burned.
    Has this happened to you or any one you know?
    I have seen a warning about this on CPF. How common is this problem? Anyone been hurt?
     
  13. greenLED

    greenLED Empty Pockets

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    See this thread for more information:
    http://edcforums.com/index.php?topic=5765.0

    CPF also has several stickies on the subject, which will answer your questions completely and more accurately than I could relate in a single post here.
     
  14. AndyTiedye

    AndyTiedye Empty Pockets

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    Were the batteries run-down?
    Was the light on at the time?
    If not, how recently had it been on?

    Have you posted on this on CPF?
     
  15. yeti

    yeti Empty Pockets

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    I'm still reading through all of this but in case no one has yet mentioned it, ZTS no longer has this as a special order mod...it is now standard.

    Additionally, for those counting, only one of their models, the MBT1 will do lithium AAs. The link to that is:

    http://www.ztsinc.com/mbt1.html
     
  16. Codeman

    Codeman Loaded Pockets

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    Looks like ZTS added 2 new contacts (one for L91/L92 and one for 12V Alkies/A23) and a rubber surround. My older MBT-1 has only 8 stations. I wonder why they didn't change the model number? That's going to be confusing.

    I do wish, however, that they had added an RCR123 (3.7V LiIon) station instead of the A23. I can't see many folks wanting A23, unless the military uses them. Then again, I wear contacts! :D
     
  17. Lunal_Tic

    Lunal_Tic Empty Pockets

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    IIRC the A23 is the battery in the Glo-Toob. The new ZTS is nice, mine just got here.

    -LT
     
  18. JonSidneyB
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    JonSidneyB Uber Prepared
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    Lithium Ion and Lithium batteries can be used safetly if you use some sence. They can bite you if you do things wrong.

    What is a concern to me is the use of bare cells in series and also balancing the cells in charging.

    I think people need to start being very careful when experimenting.

    SilverFox I think has the best understanding of this subject of anyone I know.

    I don't like to talk about this subject on some levels as some think I am not as credible as I was financially involved in trying to create them at one time.

    I am going to invite SilverFox over to talk about batteries.
     
  19. luigi

    luigi Loaded Pockets

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    I wonder if a pressure release valve can be the perfect safety feature for flashlights. You keep the light being waterproof since water can't enter and you are safer in case of a battery vent or failure since the has can get out.

    Question: Is there any way to check the batteries before using it without a ZST ? Using a regular multimeter or something ? I would like to be as safe as possible but I may not want to spend in a ZST tester right now.

    Luigi
     
  20. greenLED

    greenLED Empty Pockets

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    From what little I understand, a multimeter doesn't tell you the whole story about the capacity of your cells; voltage alone is not enough to "match" cells.