Blaze Fire Investigation is now know as Anderson Engineering. (updated 6/28/17)
Lithium Ion batteries are ubiquitous in today's electronic environment. Everything from cell phones to hover-boards to electric vehicles run on Lithium Ion batteries. This type of battery is attractive to manufacturers because of its relatively high specific energy. This means there is more energy per unit of mass in a Lithium Ion battery than there is in other types of batteries. The high specific energy is great for packing a lot of power into a small package. But upon failure, that same energy can be released in a dangerous fashion.
In that way, the Lithium Ion battery is not unlike other electrical failures. We know that electrical failure in an appliance or circuit can cause a fire. We also know that in a fire environment, the breakdown of insulation systems can cause an electrical failure on a circuit or appliance. During a fire investigation, an investigation team has to determine if the evidence of failure noted after the fire was a cause of the fire or a victim of the fire.
Similarly, a Lithium Ion battery can fail and cause a fire or it can fail due to being attacked by a fire.
There have been well documented failure modes of Lithium Ion batteries that result in a thermal run-away condition. The thermal run-away condition can result in a pressure build-up internal to the battery cell that is relieved by a venting with flame. The heat generated in the battery cell can ignite near-by combustible materials such as a plastic housing. Even more dangerous is the possibility of the battery cell contents being expelled under pressure causing the flaming battery to rocket across a room and ignite combustible materials.