Really? Can Modern Batteries Explode?

You’ve read the warning labels, but who has ever known a dry cell battery to explode?

We’ve all read the warnings, “May explode or leak, and cause burn injury if recharged, disposed of in fire, mixed with a different battery type, inserted backwards, or disassembled.”  But who believes it.  After all, every piece of packaging has some silly warning that never seems to happen. And I’ve seen many a campfire ring with spent batteries lying in the ashes, only slightly bulgy, not exploded.

exploded AA battery

What we found inside the wireless mouse

But we have had batteries explode. It was in interesting experience, and one to learn from. Hubby had replaced the AA alkaline batteries in his wireless mouse with two that I found a couple of days before that. I try to date them when I buy batteries, and one of these was older than the other, but neither one had ever been used.  It was in interesting experience, and one to learn from.  Hubby had replaced the AA alkaline batteries in his wireless mouse with two that I found a couple of days before that. I try to date them when I buy batteries, and one of these was older than the other, but neither one had ever been used.

Neither one of us was in the room with the mouse when it happened. I was reading a book in a nearby room when I heard a noise like someone stamping on a crinkly plastic container… like the kind berries or grape tomatoes come in, but loud. The dog was alarmed too, so I knew I didn’t imagine it, even though hubby, who was farther away, heard nothing. We went looking for the source of this odd noise, but couldn’t find a thing.

A few minutes later, hubby returned to his computer and found that there was a pool of liquid under the mouse. In fact, it was battery “acid”. Of course, the warnings advise that this can cause burns, but before we were done, both of us got our hands in it, and didn’t get any burns. We did both wash right away though.

batteries explode

The bottom blew off the battery and the liquid leaked out

As you can see in the pictures, the bottom blew right out of the battery. Because we found it quickly, and wiped out the battery case in the mouse, we were lucky in that there was no damage done. Both the battery and the mouse itself were quite hot. I could pick up the battery, but hubby found it too hot to hold. It’s possible that the problem was caused by the differing ages of the two batteries.

If this happens to you, and you are concerned about the liquid, just slip on some disposable gloves.

Batteries deliver electric current through a chemical reaction. The older type of batteries, but in familiar sizes like D, C, AA, AAA were carbon-zinc batteries. They could not deliver a charge for very long, and if you think you run batteries down fast now, you should have been alive in the 1950s. It was the standard stuff of disasters… the batteries ran down.

Now, there are many more technologically advanced choices, but the most economical are alkaline batteries. The chemical reaction which creates a flow of electrons is created with zinc and manganese dioxide. The electrolyte (the “liquid”) through which the charge moves is potassium hydroxide, which is actually a base (alkaline) not an acid. Carbon-zinc batteries really do leak acid. So when we say that these batteries leak acid, we really should say that they leak a caustic substance. Either way, it can damage skin.

After reading of some other instances of exploding batteries, I think that we should all be a little more careful about where we store batteries and how we use them. They probably shouldn’t be left sitting out loose, especially near children, since they do seem to explode occasionally for no apparent reason at all. When it says to not mix old and new batteries, that is probably good advice.

In short, remember that although they are a common technology, there is a potent chemical reaction occurring inside the battery, and it occasionally will escape the confines of the innocuous little cylinder.

Please remember to dispose of all batteries properly. Don’t put them in the regular trash. Find a local recycling center that will make sure they go to a hazardous waste landfill, or possibly actually be recycled.

photos by the author: J.H. Young

#batteriesexplode
#explodingbatteries
#batterysafety
#sharkbytes


Share with your friends
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
To report this post you need to login first.

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *