KWLM

e-cig explosion jpcola kwlm 6-3-16

A Willmar man suffered serious burns this morning when the battery of his e-cigarette exploded in his pocket. At 10:15 a.m. the Willmar Ambulance Service was dispatched to an apartment on Southwest 5th Street on the report of a man burned when a battery exploded. Ambulance officials say the victim sustained burns to the leg and hand due to the explosion of an e-cigarette battery. He was taken to Rice Memorial Hospital and was later transferred to a metro area burn unit.

Millions of people use e-cigarettes and while explosions of batteries do happen occasionally, they are are rare. There doesn't seem to be a single reason for these failures. According on an article on NBCnews.com, some of the obvious problems include the lack of industry-wide manufacturing standards or testing programs, and misuse by vapers who modify their devices or use the wrong battery chargers. The lithium-ion batteries used to power e-cig vaporizers are small and powerful. When they fail, the results can be disastrous, not only with e-cigarettes but also with cellphones, laptops and most recently, hoverboards. Extreme temperatures — below 50 degrees or above 115 — can cause some lithium-ion batteries to malfunction.

The article says an e-cig is a fairly simple device. A heating element vaporizes the liquid solution (the "juice") in the atomizing cartridge. Some have an on/off switch; others heat automatically when the user takes a drag. "The electrolyte inside the battery is basically the equivalent of gasoline," explained Venkat Viswanathan, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. "So when these batteries short out, there's a surge of heat that causes this flammable electrolyte to combust and explode." Well-made lithium-ion cells have a very small risk of failure. But the cheaper cells "have a much greater chance of having a manufacturing defect," which increases the likelihood for failure, Viswanathan told NBC News. There's no word at this point what caused the Willmar explosion.