Can Portable Chargers Explode?

Portable chargers, or Power Banks, have become an everyday object for most people. Considering how the older the phone gets the quicker the battery runs out, it is normal to carry a portable charger everywhere.

These portable batteries use circuitry to control power in and power out. They can be charged through a USB charger and then used to charge other battery-powered items.

Most power banks use rechargeable lithium polymer or ion batteries which can be harmful if you’re exposed to it. If the battery begins to leak, make sure to protect your hands and eye while cleaning it up. Afterwards, dispose of it.

If used correctly, this is not something to worry about, portable chargers are generally safe and don’t cause damage.

What are the chances of power-banks explosions?

As said before, power banks are generally safe and the chance of one of these batteries exploding is slim. However, there have been some reports of explosions and batteries catching fire.

There is a reasonable explanation for these incidents. A power bank won’t explode if there’s no problem with it, which means that for an incident like this to happen, the battery must have a problem or there has to be a triggering factor.

Every electronic device is potentially at risk of explosion, both if used inappropriately and if there’s an outside force that triggers it by coming into contact with the battery.

The most common reasons for a power bank explosion are connected with its quality. 

  • Poor quality batteries can undergo internal short circuits that will cause them to explode.
  • If the internal circuits are of poor quality, they can overcharge or over-discharge the battery or cause a short circuit.
  • Furthermore, if a power bank is physically damaged, it can explode if a sharp object comes into contact and punctures its battery.

Know if a power bank is at risk of fire or explosion

If you think your portable charger is damaged and at risk for explosion, you can check for any sign that may give it off.

One of the telltale signs is a hissing noise or smoke coming out of the power bank.

If you can only smell smoke and not see it, the battery is still in danger of explosion or fire.

The charger may be unusually hot while charging and it may look bloated or swollen.

In the event you experience one of these signs, disconnect the charger and move it away from everything. If it shows sparks or a flame drop it and quickly get away from it.

How to act in case of fire or explosion

The main problem with power-banks explosions is their lithium-ion batteries. At high temperatures, it breaks down into oxygen and combustible fuel, creating its own fuel and oxidizer. A dangerous combo that needs special consideration.

  • The first option to stop this kind of fire is to use a water extinguisher. However, the water needs to run continuously. This way it cools down the battery and excludes oxygen.
  • Fire extinguishers that work by displacing oxygen, such as CO2, is less effective, though better than nothing.
  • You can use a Class ABC dry powder fire extinguisher. These are traditionally recommended and thanks to their low cost everyone can buy a small one to keep around.
  • The Class D fire extinguisher is designed to draw heat away. It’s helpful because it can lower the temperature enough to stop the battery from producing oxygen.
  • If you don’t have a proper extinguisher, you can use a bucket of salt or sand. When the salt melts, it cools the battery down and helps contain the flames.

Tips on how to stay safe

To prevent any possible incident, make sure to follow some guidelines.

  • Use the power pack only for its intended use. Keep it away from heat sources and liquids (direct sunlight, humidity, or water), and don’t expose it to extreme temperatures.
  • Only use connecting cables provided with the battery pack and your mobile device.
  • If not in use, don’t leave a battery on prolonged charge.
  • Don’t store battery packs where they may short-circuit by a conductive material (e.g., near coins or keys).
  • Don’t drop battery packs, nor handle them roughly, because they are not indestructible.
  • Charge in a well-ventilated environment.
  • Supervise children using battery packs.
  • Don’t dismantle or attempt to repair faulty battery packs.
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