Lithium battery explodes at airport

A lithium battery exploded in a bag at an airport in the USA.

The blast happened at Midway International Airport in Chicago after the bag was run over by a luggage trolley.

This crushed a mobile phone battery or charger inside the bag, causing it to explode. It was checked out by the bomb squad.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said: “The bag was affected by a possible cell phone battery or battery charger. Incident was cleared by the bomb squad and no-one was injured.”

Lithium batteries can catch fire for all sorts of reasons such as if they are powered by a cheap charger, are dropped or damaged.

This can cause them to go into what is known as thermal runaway and this happens when one cell in a battery overheats it can produce enough heat – up to 900°C (1652°F) – to cause adjacent cells to overheat. This can cause a lithium battery fire to flare repeatedly.

One graphic example happened on a plane carrying 53 passengers in Canada when this rucksack (pictured) caught fire in the hold and the plane had to make an emergency landing. An investigation concluded that one battery in a battery charger went into thermal runaway, sparking the fire. The investigation could not determine if the damage happened before the battery arrived at the airport or during baggage handling.

The charger should not have been in the hold luggage anyway as the airline’s policy was for all lithium batteries to be in the passenger cabin where staff could quickly deal with any fire.

Incidents of thermal runaway are on the rise, especially if mobile phones are lost down plane seats and are then crushed when the seat is moved to try to find them.

Lithium-ion battery fires on board planes are rarely publicised but a fire in a device could emit toxic smoke and potentially the battery may even explode, causing damage to the aircraft and putting lives at risk.

AvSax are the world’s best-selling aircraft fire containment bags by far and are now on more than 15,373 aircraft operated by 75 airline companies across the world and have been used 31 times to deal with emergencies since the start of 2017.

AvSax won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the UK in 2018.