Crowcon - Detecting Gas Saving Lives
05 March 2024
A Battery Powered Future: The Rise of Lithium-ion batteries and what it means for sustainability efforts

As we collectively move towards a greener future in which the shift to sustainable energy solutions have become a core global socio-political issue, lithium-ion batteries have come centre stage as a possible solution. Thanks to their ability to store large amounts of energy in a comparatively lightweight and compact form, they have revolutionised everything from consumer wearables to electric vehicles. But to what extent is a battery-powered future truly the perfect energy solution we’ve been looking for?

Facilitating greener energy opportunities

The rise in lithium-ion batteries comes with a plethora of advantages as we shift away from fossil fuel dependence, contributing to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Particularly in relation to the electrification of transportation through electric vehicles (EVs). By powering EVs with clean electricity stored in batteries, the transportation sector can reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and decrease emissions of greenhouse gases and pollutants. As the EV sector becomes more competitive, and with many governments incentivising the rise of EVs, battery technology advancements continue to improve the range, charging speed, and affordability of EVs, accelerating their adoption and further reducing reliance on internal combustion engine vehicles.

Lithium-ion batteries also play an increasingly crucial role in stabilising power grids, allowing the integration of intermittent renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, into the electricity grid. The sun doesn’t always shine and it’s not always windy – but by storing excess energy generated during periods of high production and discharging it when needed, batteries facilitate a reliable supply of clean energy in a reliable, stable way which had previously been difficult to achieve. By optimising energy management and reducing losses associated with traditional energy systems, batteries contribute to more efficient and sustainable energy use across various sectors.

Just how green are lithium-ion batteries?

However, the increasing prevalence of batteries has come with its own set of environmental implications. The extraction and processing of the rare earth metals such as lithium and cobalt are often conducted under exploitative conditions in mining regions, and the extraction process can also have significant environmental impacts, including habitat destruction and water pollution. Furthermore, the disposal of lithium-ion batteries at the end of their life cycle also poses concerns about recycling and the potential for hazardous waste to leak into the environment.

However, there is another area of concern with lithium-ion batteries which, with their increased usage, has led to a rise in dangerous incidents: their volatile and combustible nature. Anyone who has seen thermal runaway of lithium-ion batteries cannot fail to recognise the risk attached to their increased use. Even the failure of small-scale lithium-ion consumer electronic device can cause deadly and devastating explosions and fires, which makes the storage and use of batteries on a larger scale in need of robust safety measures.

Risk management with lithium-ion batteries

Fortunately, there are ways of mitigating the risk attached to lithium-ion batteries. Commonly, Battery Management Systems (BMS) are used to monitor battery charge level, voltage, current and temperature- which can help identify issues with any batteries. However there is a more efficient and reliable way of detecting thermal runaway: gas detection.

Ahead of thermal runaway, the batteries undergo a process of ‘off-gassing’, in which increased quantities of toxic VOCs are released. By monitoring the gasses around the batteries, and signs of stress or damage can be identified before thermal runaway begins.

At present, many insurers focus on the risk of fire, encouraging Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) to have processes in place to ensure fires can be controlled and managed as quickly and effectively as possible. However, as lithium-ion batteries are highly sensitive to temperature, once a fire has begun in one battery, it is likely any other batteries in proximity will also be irrevocably damaged- or begin thermal runaway themselves. The solution is simple: identify the problems at the earliest possible stage through gas detection, and ensure fires can’t start in the first place to more robustly safeguard against disaster. 

You can’t put a price on safety

The cost attached to investing in sophisticated gas detection is negligible in contrast with the cost of fire – roughly 0.01% of the cost of a new project – making it an obvious choice for those seeking to mitigate risk with manufacturing, storing and using lithium-ion batteries. The damage to the property, cost to human health (and even life), alongside the harm caused to the natural environment with potential contamination issues following battery failure are all extensive and significant. Combined with the threat to maintaining a business on top of the damage control required, the need to avoid complicated and expensive clean-up operations is paramount. This is something the Crowcon team understand better than anyone.

Crowcon will work closely with you to ensure your business and personnel are as safe and secure as possible through cutting-edge gas detection technology, such as the MPS™ sensor. Our Molecular Property Spectrometer™ (MPS™) technology accurately detects over 15 hazardous gases in one, allowing for a higher standard of flammable gas detection and greater confidence in your battery safety.

Click here to speak to us about safeguarding your business

While realising the full potential of lithium-ion technology still requires addressing the environmental and social challenges associated with its production, maintenance and disposal, the increasing prevalence of lithium-ion batteries represents a significant step towards a more sustainable and cleaner energy future. Innovation in the maintenance and enhanced efficiency of renewable energy technologies, such as rechargeable batteries, is a crucial step in detaching society from dependence on fossil fuels. From powering our everyday devices to driving the transition to electric transportation and renewable energy, lithium-ion batteries are at the forefront of the sustainability revolution – and the Crowcon team are on hand to help make a greener and safer future for generations to come.

For more information on battery safety, download our eBook ‘The Battery Boom: The Explosive Rise of Thermal Runaway and how you can prevent it’.

Get your FREE copy of ‘The Battery Boom’ eBook

Want to know more about how Crowcon can help safeguard your business’ future with premier gas detection systems? Click here to get in touch for an obligation-free chat with a member of our team.

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