When batteries — or entire battery storage systems — explode, it is extremely dangerous. Toxic gases escape. The temperatures are extreme. People can be seriously injured or even die. Just in the last year, there have been repeated reports of exploding cell phone batteries, burning e‑cars, and catastrophic incidents involving home storage for renewable energy. These incidents could be prevented with the help of NOVUM technology. Find out exactly how this works and what red-hot new insights our graduate student Anton Kelbert has gathered during his personal research on the topic of fire prediction here.
“The worst thing that can happen to a battery is that it explodes,” Anton Kelbert clarifies right at the beginning of the conversation. As a graduate student at NOVUM, he has an exciting task: “Fire prediction is already part of everyday work at NOVUM in the context of split-second battery diagnostics and large-scale storage monitoring. The goal of my research work at the TU Dresden is now to find out even more about how much advance notice we can use to accurately predict that a battery will not only fail, but burn or even explode.”
The experimental laboratories were a hotbed of activity. — With surprising and also quite disturbing results for the young diploma student: In order to learn more about the behavior of defective batteries, the first step was to set individual cells on fire under laboratory conditions. In normal everyday life, this can happen, for example, through mechanical effects — such as in an accident, through overcharging and undercharging, or through exposure to heat.
“In fact, the cells exploded right on our first try,” Anton Kelbert reported. “No one expected this to happen so quickly.”
Already at temperatures of 80 to 90 degrees Celsius, the first signs of a so-called “thermal runaway” of the commercially available battery cells became apparent. At 120 degrees and then again at 160 degrees, the cells emitted toxic fumes until they finally exploded at just over 200 degrees.
But can something like this also happen during normal use in the car or in the storage tank of the home solar system? “The scenario is quite realistic,” explains Anton Kelbert. “As recently as 2022, a home storage tank in a German apartment building exploded so violently that it lifted the roof trusses. Disasters happen all the time. It was pure coincidence that no one was harmed in the process.”
Beyond this destruction, the toxic fumes pose a great danger to all who come near the disaster and do not know the cause of the explosion. Firefighters would also have no chance of extinguishing the fire without special equipment because the temperatures would simply be too high.
“By means of patented NOVUM technology, however, we make sure that it doesn’t come to that,” explains Sören Birth, head of development at NOVUM and mentor of the diploma student. “Our system immediately sounds the alarm for NOVUM customers if the first signs of irregularities and problems appear in a battery. Unlike some competitors, we don’t just rely on pure data analysis, but are able to determine all the necessary information ourselves with the help of hardware.”
Meanwhile, Anton Kelbert is already preparing the next experiments. What fascinates him personally about the subject? “Our research is extremely important for all companies that work with batteries,” explains the TU Dresden student. There’s a bit of fun in the end, though: “When it pops and burns, the little boy in me is happy.”