Modelling and Experiments to Identify High-Risk Failure Scenarios for Testing the Safety of Lithium-Ion Cells

Donal Finegan, Chuanbo Yang, Matthew Keyser, John Darst, William Walker, Rhodri Jervis, Thomas Heenan, Jennifer Hack, James Thomas, Alexander Rack, Dan Brett, Paul Shearing, Eric Darcy, Qibo Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus Citations


Intentionally inducing worst-case thermal runaway scenarios in Li-ion cells on-demand is a definitive way to test the efficacy of battery systems in safely mitigating the consequences of catastrophic failure. An internal short-circuiting (ISC) device is implanted into three 18650 cell designs: one standard, one with a bottom vent, and one with a thicker casing. Through an extensive study of 228 cells, the position at which thermal runaway initiates is shown to greatly affect the tendency of cells to rupture and incur side-wall breaches at specific locations. The risks associated with each failure mechanism and position of the ISC device are quantified using a custom calorimeter that can decouple the heat from ejected and non-ejected contents. Causes of high-risk failure mechanisms, such as bursting and side-wall breaches, are elucidated using high-speed synchrotron X-ray imaging at 2000 frames per second and image-based 3D thermal runaway computational models, which together are used to construct a comprehensive description of external risks based on internal structural and thermal phenomena.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)29-41
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Power Sources
StatePublished - 31 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5400-71712


  • Calorimetry
  • Li-ion battery
  • Modelling
  • Thermal runaway
  • X-ray imaging


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