Following my recent board fire, I started looking into ways of making battery packs as safe as possible.
One natural choice is the NESE modules. They are easy to use and don’t leave that much room for a user error as traditional spot-welded packs. Also, abrasion resistance is excellent.
One other concept I like is cell level fusing, which (if done correctly) protects against thermal runaway (and fire) in case of any kind of short circuit, including internal battery cell short. This is also what Tesla does for its battery packs.
I thought about ways of combining the two and here’s what I have come up with.
The idea is to use only the unpadded NESE tabs and add custom padding with a fuse:
I decided to put the fuse on the negative side. The reason is that the nickel ring is not held in place by anything. In case it moves it could potentially slide under the fishpaper ring and cause a short. While this seems extremely unlikely, I don’t want to take any chances.
The negative side gets the fishpaper ring to extend the area where the fuse wire is not touching the battery or the tab, which should make it easier for it to pop in case of a short.
I did a few experiments to find out what wire gauge would be appropriate. I have an assorted collection of diodes that I have actually never used. I found out they have wires of various diameters, which came in handy now.
Using a single Samsung 30Q (charged to 3.8V initially and 3.6V when done with experimenting), I tested how the wires will behave under 10A current and under a short circuit. I was looking for gauge that withstands the 10A reliably but at the same it pops as quickly as possible in case of a short.
I used a 0.33 Ohm 50W resistor as load. At 3.8V, this would produce ~11.5A (going gradually towards 10A as the battery looses charge).
I first tested a very thin resistor wire (0.34mm / 28 AWG). No chance to withstand 10A with that one. It popped immediately.
Next, I tried a 0.44mm / 25 AWG wire. First, I used about 3 cm of the wire and that one burned pretty quickly at 10A. Then I realized that I would need a much shorter fuse wire in the NESE, so I tried again with ~0.5 cm wire. That one stood up to 10A just fine:
I then tested a short circuit with the same setup. I took this experiment to my balcony, just in case.
Success! It popped immediately. (Note the wire that shorts the switch directly to the NESE module, bypassing the load resistor.)
Next, I tested the short circuit with 0.50mm / 24 AWG wire to find out if it’s also useable:
It still managed to break the circuit quickly. This wasn’t so convincing though since the fuse wire didn’t pop but rather it desoldered itself from the bigger wire. It would have probably still popped if given a little more time. Anyway, I liked the way the 25 AWG wire handled the short much better so I went with it for the NESE.
Here’s testing the fused NESE with ~10A discharge.
About 30 secs of 10A continuous and nothing happened. (Only the load resistor got really hot. :)) Good!
Time to test the short circuit:
And the fuse wire popped straight away, exactly as expected.
I may need to repeat the experiment with a little more current. So far it looks promising though. The only problem is that the fused tabs are a bit fiddly to make. Should get better with some practice.
What do you guys think about this? Can you see any issues?