This case involves a woman in South Carolina who suffered severe burns on her leg when an e-cigarette lithium battery exploded. The woman had recently purchased a new battery for her electronic cigarette, which was marketed and sold specifically as an approved replacement batter for her specific device. Nevertheless, shortly after the woman installed the battery in her device, she noticed that the unit became warm to the touch in her pocket. When the woman reached into her pocket to remove the device it suddenly exploded, causing severe burns to her hands and leg. The woman required multiple surgeries and skin grafts, and now suffers from permanent scarring.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Please briefly describe your familiarity with lithium ion batteries, especially their use in e-cigarettes.
Expert Witness Response E-043105
I am an expert in materials science and especially lithium ion batteries. My PhD dissertation was focused on the safety issues of lithium ion batteries and I also have a National Science Foundation grant supporting my research on the charge-discharge mechanism of lithium ion batteries, which is closely related to explosions caused by batteries. Thus, I am able to speak to the components of the e-cigarette, most notably the lithium ion battery and its associated risks. I have reviewed publications and research proposals dealing the safety issues of lithium ion batteries, but have not yet served as an independent expert witness. The causes of battery explosion are most often linked to thermal runaway, which is typically linked to some defect in the battery’s manufacture or subsequent damage to the battery.
Expert Witness Response E-043099
I have vast experience with lithium ion batteries and thermal runaway. Its actually very similar to what happened with the hover boards: The quality of the battery cells are low and the rate to which they emit energy to power the product is too high, causing the power cells/batteries to heat up above 90 degrees and burst or melt down. We call this thermal runaway. I am currently working with NASA on a contractual basis on how to prevent thermal runaway in small cells.