Lab battery blast hits students

Local | Jane Cheung Mar 13, 2018
Three students were sent to hospital when a battery exploded during an experiment in the laboratory of a Tseung Kwan O secondary school yesterday.

The lithium battery caught fire in the laboratory at HHCKLA Buddhist Ching Kok Secondary School yesterday morning, prompting the teacher and students to flee.

The school called the police and firemen, who extinguished the fire. However, three boys felt ill after inhaling the smoke and were sent to hospital.

Firemen said the cause of the fire was not suspicious.

Last month, lithium batteries stored in a container in a Yuen Long car park caught fire after short-circuiting, resulting in five cars being damaged. More than 20 people were moved out and no one was injured.

The University of Hong Kong's chair of power electronics, Ron Hui Shu-yuen, said a battery is likely to explode after short-circuiting. He said a short-circuit occurs when metals are placed near the positive and negative conductors of a battery, which induces a high current that delivers a large amount of heat and subsequently causes an explosion.

Hui said an explosion may also occur when a battery is in use as it expands slightly in size, causing it to short-circuit. To further illustrate his point, he used the multiple instances of Samsung phone batteries catching fire.

However, Hui said lithium batteries are not riskier than other types of battery.

"Other batteries will also short-circuit in the same situation. We see more explosions with lithium batteries only because it's the most widely used kind," he said.

He said lithium batteries are used in phones and vehicles since they are lightweight and compact.

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December 2018