Battery Safety and Failure Modes

Short Course at ECS meetings

The severity of an energetic lithium-ion battery (LIB) safety incident has the potential to make high specific energy LIB chemistries an at-risk technology for some applications. As such, improvements in LIB safety design without compromising performance continues to be a major focus for researchers, manufacturers and users across all sectors of the energy storage marketplace.

This new short course provides a foundation for understanding the general principles of LIB safety and failure modes analysis. The effects of LIB chemical, electrical, thermal, and mechanical design features on safety characteristics will be presented. The course is also focused on how to use electrochemical characterizations, primarily incremental capacity based approach, to identify and quantify failure modes and effects. The principles of such analysis will be explained, examples given, and effects quantified. A systematic approach with other physical and chemical analyses will be introduced to illustrate how a holistic failure modes and effects analysis can be used to aid LIB cell design and assessment.

The course is designed to benefit R&D scientists, practicing engineers, and students who have a need to increase their knowledge to design, test and operate safe LIB energy storage systems.

About the instructors

Tom P. Barrera, is currently President, Lithium-Ion Battery (LIB)-X Consulting which is an independent technical consulting firm specializing in the design, manufacturing, test, and safety engineering of LIB power systems. With over 30 years of relevant industry experience, Tom previously served as a Technical Fellow for The Boeing Co., battery R&D test engineer at The Aerospace Corporation, and power systems engineer at the NASA-Johnson Space Center.

During his 19 year career at The Boeing Co., Tom led multidisciplinary teams in the end-to-end development of high-reliability electrical power and battery energy storage systems utilizing various LIB technologies. Tom is a Member-at-Large for the ECS Battery Division, Associate Fellow of the AIAA, and project lead for the NASA Engineering and Safety Center. After receiving his PhD in Chemical Engr from UCLA, Tom worked as a post-doctoral research fellow in the UCLA Dept. of Materials Science and Engr. Tom also received a MS in Industrial Engr from Northwestern University, BS in Chemical Engr and BA in Mathematics-Economics from UCSB.


Joshua Lamb is the Principal Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Here, Lamb performs battery safety and abuse testing as part of the Power Sources Technology Group’s Battery Abuse Test Laboratory programs. This includes serving as the technical subject matter expert (SME) for battery safety and abuse testing covering Sandia’s electric vehicle battery portfolio. Additionally, Lamb manages a wide portfolio of battery safety technology programs, including work for the Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, Department of Defense, and private industry strategic partnership programs.

Lamb received his PhD in metallurgical engineering (2003-2008) and received his BS in chemical engineering (1998-2002), both at the University of Nevada. He was a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Nevada (2008-2010) as well, where he performed research on hydrogen storage materials as part of the United States Department of Energy Metal Hydride Center of Excellence program. His primary research focused on the behavior of lithium nitride when exposed to a mixed nitrogen-hydrogen gas atmosphere.