Introducing FlameBlock Lithium Black: Locally developed fire extinguisher for lithium-ion batteries

19 Oct 2023

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The newly developed and launched FlameBlock Lithium Black fire extinguisher is a 100% South African innovation developed to tackle lithium-ion battery-related fires.

The fully environment-friendly, uniquely formulated fire extinguishing agent stops a fire emerging from a lithium-ion battery immediately, brings the temperature of the battery down to 80°C – and keeps it cool – and covers the battery to prevent the escape of dangerous gases.

The product, developed by Johannesburg-based FlameBlock and available in 6ℓ or 9ℓ canisters, also interferes with the chemical reaction of the lithium-ion battery and suppresses the oxygen released by the lithium during a fire, while discharging the battery to prevent any later reignition.

Established in 2021, under the umbrella of Advanced Fire Suppression Technologies, FlameBlock develops, engineers, manufactures and supplies a wide range of fireproofing products and solutions for the engineering, mining, construction, commercial and industrial market sectors across South Africa.

The company has several developments behind its name, including FlameBlock Shield, which forms a seal to prevent the spread of flames and toxic gases through service openings; FlameBlock Paint and FlameBlock Top Coat, high-quality acrylic waterproofing used in conjunction with FlameBlock Shield; FlameBlock Panel, which is a fire-retardant panel with insulating properties designed to stop fire propagation at all services openings; and FlameBlock 

Wool, a high-density mineral wool board of non-combustible material easily compressed into difficult openings.

As the use of lithium-ion batteries increases, forming a critical component of the alternative power systems households and businesses are installing in response to continued load-shedding and power outages in South Africa, FlameBlock embarked on developing a specific product for fire suppression for these types of batteries, says FlameBlock director Ferdi van Zyl.

A hidden danger, as the use of lithium batteries increases, is that normal fire extinguishers battle to control fires on these types of batteries, he explains, further highlighting that a study in Australia, for example, shows that housefires caused by lithium-ion batteries are increasing.

There is also a need to bring about awareness of the dangers of lithium-ion battery-based fires that can be caused by external heat and incorrect discharge and recharging that could potentially damage the batteries.

It is not just a matter of dousing the fire in water, foam or covering it, he says, noting that the company had undertaken extensive worldwide research and conducted testing on hundreds of batteries to understand how the lithium-ion batteries react during fires.

“The first thing you have to learn is how the lithium-ion battery operates, why it burns and how it burns. It creates its own oxygen and the chemical reaction is dangerous,” Van Zyl comments.

Tests on the batteries revealed that temperatures can reach between 800 °C and 1 000 °C during a fire on a fully charged lithium-ion battery.

While water can eliminate the fire, it only cools it down for a few seconds before the temperatures return to above 100 °C or 110 °C and the lithium-ion battery’s chemical reaction reignites the flames.

There is a need to take all of this into consideration when developing a product to mitigate this challenge.

After the extensive and in-depth research, which branched out to experts worldwide, the company set out the non-negotiable criteria for the product to put a lithium-ion battery-related fire out, including eliminating the fire immediately and reducing the temperature to below 80 °C, while preventing the discharge of dangerous gases.

The extensively-tested FlameBlock Lithium Black extinguisher meets all the criteria required, in addition to being an environment-friendly product, with natural ingredients used in its formulation.

FlameBlock Lithium Black is available and distributed through its parent company the Advanced Group’s headquarters in Alberton, Gauteng, where FlameBlock is also based.

FlameBlock also has extensive backing and access to the footprint and network of the Advanced Group across South Africa and internationally.

FlameBlock Lithium Black fire extinguishers can be serviced at any SANS 1475 accredited service provider and refills are available at any Advanced Fire Suppression Technologies branch across South Africa.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter