An explosion of a lithium–thionyl-chloride (Li–SOCl2) battery during production (assembly) leads to serious worker injury. The accident cell batch had been in a dry-air intermediate storage room for months before being readied with thionyl chloride electrolyte. Metallic lithium can react with atmospheric nitrogen to produce lithium nitride. Nodules of lithium nitride were found to be present on the lithium foil in other cells of the accident batch. The investigation attributed the explosion to the formation of porous lithium nitride during intermediate storage and a violent exothermal decomposition with the SOCl2–LiAlCl4 electrolyte triggered by welding. The literature is silent on hazards of explosion of Li–SOCl2 cells associated with the presence of lithium nitride. The silence is intriguing. Possible causes may be that such explosions are very rare, that explosions go unpublished precisely as this case initially did, or a combination of the two.
- Accident reconstruction