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E-Cigarette Explosions – Not a Rare Occurrence

Richard Meier, IAAI-CFI, CFEI, CFPS
Florida Fire and Explosion Analysis Expert

E-cigarette Fires in the news
Photo courtesy of

It seems like every week there is another news story about the explosion of an E-cigarette.  In the most recent one, an Idaho man was badly injured and lost several teeth when is E-cigarette exploded in his face while he was using it.

Unfortunately, these are becoming all too common.  Several similar incidents have been recorded, along with E-cigarettes and the batteries they use exploding or catching fire while in the pockets of their owners.  So what is happening, and why is it happening?

E-Cigaratte Hazards
Image courtesy of

First things first.  What is an “E-cigarette”?  An E-cigarette, or “electronic cigarette” or “E-cig”, is actually not a cigarette at all.  The product was designed as an alternative to traditional combustion based smoking methods used to extract nicotine from tobacco and inhale by the user.  It is a vaporizer used to turn a liquid extract (usually tobacco based) into a vapor by heating it with an electrical resistance heater.  The vaporizer can be a simple manual device where a button is pushed to energize the heater, or a semi-automatic type where a sensor detects air flow and the heating element is energized.

E-Cigarette Parts
Image Courtesy of FEMA

The rapid and repeating heating of the vaporizer requires a great deal of energy, and this brings us to the heart of the problem.  The energy source for these vaporizers, or “e-cigs” are typically lithium-ion batteries.  Li-ion have the highest energy to weight ratio of all batteries on the market.  They have been indicated in numerous fire and explosion incidents.  The instantaneous high current demands of e-cigarettes make the batteries particularly susceptible to failure.

Should you be presented with an exploding e-cigarette or vaporizer case, give us a call and we can help you navigate all of the technical aspects.

Want to learn more about our work with Lithium Ion Batteries? Read this.

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