All these everyday items are powered by lithium-ion batteries All these everyday items are powered by lithium-ion batteries Lithium-ion batteries power all our personal electronic devices but they come with a risk Lithium-ion batteries power all our personal electronic devices but they come with a risk AvSax are the world's best-selling lithium-ion battery fire containment bag for aircraft AvSax are the world's best-selling lithium-ion battery fire containment bag for aircraft

Why do lithium-ion batteries catch fire? Here are the top 5 reasons they are potentially dangerous.

Everyone uses lithium-ion batteries every day in electronic devices ranging from mobile phones and laptops to toys and vapes.

This is because the power they generate compared to their size and weight is phenomenal.

But what many people don’t realise is that lithium batteries can and do sometimes catch fire leading to catastrophic damage to homes and businesses.

A Consumer Product Safety Commission report in the USA revealed that more than 25,000 overheating or fire incidents involving more than 400 types of lithium battery-powered consumer products happened over a five-year period. That’s just those that are known about … the actual toll will be far higher.

When lithium-ion batteries catch fire they go into a process called thermal runaway which is also known as 'venting with flame'.

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 and they are very difficult to put out due to their intensely high temperatures. The last place you want this to happen is in the confined space of a passenger cabin on a plane at 35,000ft which is why many airlines now carry lithium battery fire containment  bags called AvSax ( and this technology is being harnessed to deal with lithium battery fires in other industries such as inside recycling centres.  

So here the main reasons lithium-ion batteries can catch fire and what you can do to prevent it from happing to your personal electronic device (PED).

  1. Damage to a personal electronic device can set the batteries into thermal runaway if they get crushed – and on planes this can happen if the phone slips into a seat and then it’s put into the reclining position. Damage to a mobile phone, laptop or any other PED includes dropping, crushing or puncturing it. All these can cause a short circuit leading to the battery catching fire.
  2. Don’t use cheap battery chargers – only use the official charger that came with it or, if replacing it, spend a bit more on getting one from a reputable manufacturer. Alternative chargers bought on the internet may be cheap but are unlikely to meet safety standards which could lead to them causing the device to overheat and catch fire.
  3. Don’t charge your device on beds, sofas or other soft furnishings as they will easily catch fire if the battery overheats.
  4. Follow the device’s manufacturers’ charging instructions … don’t leave it charging for hours and hours. Charging a device or battery without following manufacturer’s instructions may cause damage to rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. For example, some manufacturer chargers provide power to the battery on and off before it is fully charged to avoid overcharging. But ultra-fast chargers may not carefully distribute the power in this way so don’t use them unless the manufacturer’s instructions include them as an option.
  5. Be aware of charging your PED in extreme temperatures. Damage to all types of lithium batteries can happen when the temperatures are too high such as above 100°F or too low such as below freezing (32°F) during charging. Charging in temperatures below freezing can lead to permanent metallic lithium build-up on the anode, increasing the risk for failure. This is known as lithium plating ( Also keep your device away from extreme heat. Never put it next to a fire as it can cause the battery to overheat and catch fire.

The problem with lithium battery fires catching fire on aircraft is growing which is why all passengers must take all their electronic devices and spare batteries into the cabin with them so if they overheat the crew can react quickly to douse the flames and then ideally put them in a specially designed battery fire containment bag.

AvSax are the world’s best-selling fire containment bag for PEDs on aircraft and are now on more than 15,373 aircraft operated by 80 airline companies.

They have been used 33 times to deal with emergencies since the start of 2017 and every time they have been deployed the aircraft has been able to complete its journey safely with no need to divert or make an emergency landing.

Many air ambulance helicopters in the UK now carry AvSax. More than 20 helicopters operated by specialist aerial emergency medical services company Babcock were equipped with AvSax following a detailed look into the possible risks posed by lithium-ion batteries on aircraft.

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