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Thread: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

  1. #1

    Default Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    Ahoy there

    I created this guide because I felt we lacked one single comprehensive guide which tells newbies how to use Li-ion cells in a safe manner in their LED flashlights. Now I know why: At least the "comprehensive" part is impossible.

    I'm not an expert myself, but I have picked up quite a bit from CPF and other sources. If you see mistakes, typing errors, language errors, dangerous things or do not agree with anything in this guide, tell me so. If you see something which is really dangerous and you have moderator powers, feel free to correct it before somebody who doesn't know better does it and hurts himself. In that case, please be so kind to inform me of what you corrected. I'm not a native English speaker, so feel free to inform me about any spelling / grammar errors you find. It would probably be best to correct spelling / grammar by sending me a PM so we don't clutter this thread up with the fine nuances of the English language.

    Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely for newbies

    This guide is intended for Li-ion newbies (not the member Newbie, who is one of the battery safety experts here on CPF and has forgotten more about cells than I will ever know). You’ve come to CPF and you discovered Li-ion cells and LED lights which use them and you want to learn how to use them safely. This guide is specifically aimed at LED lights, using Li-ions in incandescent lights requires more care and has its own thread in the incandescent forum. If you follow this guide you will be safe. That is not a legal guarantee. By reading past this point you agree to these things: You will not sue me no matter what happens when you follow the advice from this guide and everything you do is completely your own responsibility.
    Take the time to read this all, it’s a lot, more than I expected before I started typing, but you need to know what you’re doing in order to do it in a safe manner.

    1 What Li-ion cells are we talking about?

    There are several kinds of Li-ion cells. In this guide I will only talk about what most people call Li-ion cells: Lithium Cobalt Oxyde cells, which have an average voltage of 3.7 volts.
    Three reasons: 1) These are the most commonly used cells in LED flashlights. 2) By the time you need to use other chemistries you will probably have some experience with Li-ion cells and should start to do your own research. 3) I don’t know enough about the other Li-ion chemistries. So, from here on, when I’m talking about Li-ion cells in this guide, I am talking about Lithium Cobalt Oxyde cells, the kind which is in you cellphone, laptop, MP3-player, GPS, cordless drill etc. and which carries the most risk as far as I know.

    2 Risks? What risks? Should I worry?

    Explosion. Fire. Horrible burns, lost fingers and fleshwounds. That’s what we all want to avoid.
    When you seriously abuse a Li-ion cell it gets angry. When a Li-ion cell gets angry it becomes a terrorist cell and it will “vent with flame” (AKA explode). (Read the very entertaining story of Shorty and Longman for the origins of “terrorist cell”, although the one in the story is a primary lithium cell. Don’t confuse primary lithium cells with rechargeable Li-ion cells; they are 2 completely different things.)
    Remember the fuss about exploding laptop and cellphone batteries, the huge product recalls, the lawsuits, the martian invasion to rid us of unsafe cells? No? Well, I might be imagining part of that. But rest assured, today’s cellphones and laptops are completely safe. The manufacturers have started using the exact same cells they were using in the exploding products. Hey, what’s that? That’s right, the exact same cells. The problem lies not with the cells, it lies with the way you treat ‘m. Treat ‘m nice and you won’t have a problem. That’s what this guide is about. Li-ion cells are only dangerous if you don’t use them the way you’re supposed to use them. Thanks to the lawsuits and the martian invasion a lot of money has been spent to find out what exactly turns a Li-ion cell in a terrorist cell and how to prevent that from happening. Preventive actions are what this article is about. If you are sitting next to a burning Li-ion cell, quit reading, get outside, call the fire department or your local emergency number (US: 911, AU:000, UK and most former colonies: 999 Most of Europe: 112) and tell them your name, location and don’t forget to mention the fact that there’s a lithium fire burning.

    3 How to prevent the creation of a terrorist cell

    This is the core of the information. The CIA, the NSA, the MI6, the Mossad and the KGB couldn’t figure this one out, but here is the only real and effective method to prevent terrorist cells: Treat every single one of ‘m nice and there won’t be no terrorist cells.

    3.1 During charging
    Don’t overcharge your cells, don’t charge ‘m too fast and don’t leave ‘m alone.

    No overcharging: You should stop charging when the cell has reached 4.2 volts. Just about any Li-ion charger I have ever heard off shows you when your cells have reached 4.2 volts (some lower, that’s no problem unless you want absolute full capacity, some higher, those are dangerous and should be disposed off). Some flash a light, some turn on a green light, some wave a flag. Here’s the kicker: most cheap chargers don’t quit charging at that moment. Why? Poor engineering, that’s why. There’s no excuse in my opinion. It’s plain and simple poor engineering. More on chargers later on in this guide.
    So you need to take your cells off the charger as soon as the green light goes on / he starts waving the flag. 15 – 20 minutes overcharging won’t kill your cells, you don’t need to put a three man watch on your charger and hysterically pull the cells out when the light turns green, but if the flag has been waving for half an hour and the cells are still in the charger you’re doing things wrong. You need to do this with all your cells; no matter whether you use a cheap or an expensive charger. Because you never know, that’s why.

    Also, if you don’t have one, buy a multimeter. A cheap one is good enough if you don’t plan on becoming heavily involved with electronics. Check the voltage of your cells when they come off the charger. Here's a guide on using a multimeter if you don't know how. Above 4.2 volts? Get rid of the charger and the cell. Recycle them both, don’t just throw them in the bin with the regular trash. Think about your children who will live in the mess you’re creating.

    No charging too fast: The dangerous charge current for a Li-ion cell is 2C or higher. This means 2 times the capacity of the cell in one hour. If your cell has a capacity of 2200 mAh 2C is 4400 mA or 4.4 A. This current should never, ever be exceeded, not even for a second. Safe charging is done around 1C. Less is not necessarily better; Li-ion cells like to be exercised a bit during charging. Charging too slow won’t hurt the cell, but it will reduce the capacity faster over time.
    If your cells are being charged too fast they will get hot to the touch. It’s normal for your cells to get warm during charging, but not hot. I think you know the difference between warm and hot. When a cell reaches 120įC it has officially become a terrorist cell and there is nothing you can do about it. Luckily, us mere humans can’t touch anything hotter than 60įC without serious discomfort, so as long as you can touch your cells you don’t need to run like hell. However, you do need to quit charging them in that charger if they feel hot, even when you can comfortably touch them.

    Don’t leave ‘m alone: There is a bit of discussion about this one. Some people say you should never leave charging Li-ion cells alone, not even to go to the bathroom or answer the door. In my opinion, when you are charging one or two protected Li-ion cells in a decent charger that is overreacting. (More about decent chargers and protected cells later) You can leave your charging cells alone for 15 minutes maximum, not longer. After 15 minutes you need to check on your charging cells: are they hot to the touch, do they smell funny, is the green light on? Any of these means you need to quit charging. If you’re charging packs of multiple cells for RC vehicles, hotwires etc. you need to do your own research and decide what you think is the fine line between cautious and overcautious behaviour.

    Let me also add this here: Li-ion cells should be charged on a fireproof surface. Don’t charge ‘m on a wooden table, don’t charge ‘m on paper, on a sofa, on a chair … Even if your cells don’t “vent with flame”, the charger and the cells can still get pretty hot (which usually means something is wrong), so don’t leave ‘m on a surface that can start a fire.

    3.2 During discharging
    Don’t over discharge, don’t discharge too fast, don’t leave ‘m alone. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? That’s the reason this section is shorter than the “charging” section.

    No over discharging: Li-ion cells should not be discharged below 3.0 volts. Take that multimeter you used after charging and check your cells when they’re discharged. Below 3.0 volts means you over discharged them. Be careful it doesn’t happen again. If the cell is discharged below 2.9 volts, recycle it. Discharging your cells too deep is not very dangerous in itself, but it is not safe to recharge them again. To prevent this from happening, quit using the same cell when your light gets noticeably dimmer (carry spare cells / lights if necessary) and recharge your cells often. Li-ion cells can be recharged without any problems even if discharged only a little bit so you can charge your cells when you know you've used them a bit and you will have full runtime again.

    No discharging too fast: The li-ion cells we’re talking about in this guide should never be discharged faster than 2C. A proper Li-ion compatible LED flashlight won’t discharge the correct cell too fast, so this should not be a problem.

    Don’t leave ‘m alone: Make sure you are there to turn the light off if it gets too hot. If a hissing sound comes out of it or it starts to smell funny you have a terrorist cell in a (probably) metal container in your hand. Throw it somewhere it won’t hurt anybody when it explodes IMMEDIATELY. This is a thing which will not happen if you use proper cells and treat ‘m well, but I’m mentioning it just in case.

    3.3 The cells themselves
    Let’s do some good old racial profiling. The cells most likely to turn into terrorist cells are cheap Chinese cells. The cells least likely to turn into terrorist cells are expensive Chinese cells. Gee, maybe race hasn’t got anything at all to do with it?

    Only buy name brand cells. Be a snob. It’s for your own safety. AW sells Li-ion cells here in the CPFmarketplace and his cells are generally regarded to be the best cells you can get because they have the best protective measures. Other decent brands include, but are not limited to: Sony, Sanyo and Panasonic. I used to include some low-end Chinese cells here, but the more I read and try out myself, the more I become convinced that there is no point in trying to save money by buying low-end Chinese protected cells. The price difference with high-end cells is not that big and the low-end cell's performance and safety is always worse. If you have cells from a different brand, check their reputation here on CPF or on RC forums or with other people who use Li-ion cells extensively. Do not trust the reviews on the sites you buy them from. The seller can add or remove reviews at his own will and anybody who can use a computer can call himself an expert reviewer.

    Only buy protected cells. Protection circuits are a last measure to prevent your cells from turning into terrorist cells. A protection circuit will prevent current from flowing when a cell is being overcharged, charged too fast, over discharged, discharged too fast or gets too hot. This is a last measure. Don’t discharge until the protection circuit kicks in; don’t charge until the protection circuit kicks in. That’s dangerous behaviour. Protection circuits are designed and fabricated by humans, so they can never be 100% flawless, just like us mere humans. When you’re treating a protected cell properly two things have to fail before a serious accident occurs: you and the protection circuit. When you rely on the protection circuit to tell you when to quit charging / discharging, only one thing needs to fail for things to go seriously wrong.
    If you want to use non-protected cells for any reason at all you need to do your own research and determine what safe and unsafe behaviour is. Some lights cannot use protected Li-ion cells because there are no protected Li-ion cells that fit them. Don’t buy those lights unless you are certain you know enough about the cells, the charger and the light you’re planning on using to avoid dangerous situations.

    4 Cells: Sizes, numbers, names, compatibility, confusion

    Size and voltage are the two main factors which determine whether any given cell can be used in any given light. Both size and voltage have to be right, it’s not because the cell will fit that it will work without ruining your light, your cells, your hand, your environment or any possible combination of these four.

    4.1 Size:
    Let’s be honest: size matters. Your cells have to physically fit in your light or they won’t be compatible, that’s for sure. Li-ion cells are named by using a numerical code which determines the size. The first pair of numbers is the diameter in millimetres, the second pair of numbers is the length in millimetres. 18650 cells have a diameter of 18 mm and a length of 65 mm. The last zero means it's a cylindrical cell.

    These are some common Li-ion sizes:
    14500: The size of a AA cell.
    10440: The size of a AAA cell. Never protected. Do not use these without further research.
    16340 AKA RCR123: The size of one CR123 cell.
    17670: The size of two stacked CR123 cells.
    17500: The size of one and a half stacked CR123 cells.
    18650: These are the cells used in laptop battery packs. That’s why this size cells is most researched and most developed and these have the biggest capacity / volume ratio.

    4.2 Voltage
    The Li-ion cells we’re talking about in this guide deliver on average 3.7 volts under load and can deliver as much as 4.2 volts fresh off the charger. No primary cells do this, so most lights not designed to function with Li-ion cells can’t handle them without problems.
    Recently most manufacturers have started advertising Li-ion compatibility because they realise it is a plus. If you’re not sure your light can handle Li-ion cells safely, either ask the manufacturer, search on CPF or try it yourself. The last option might kill your light / cell and it won’t be my fault and you won’t be able to sue me over it.

    So, you cannot use RCR123’s in every light you can use CR123’s in. Surefire in particular doesn’t like rechargeable Li-ion cells because they make a lot of profit by selling their own top of the line primary CR123 cells, so most Surefire lights do not work very well with Li-ion cells. There are proven-to-work combinations, search here on CPF if you want to know which ones. Especially lights designed for 3 CR123 cells can often be used with 2 17500 cells. 2 17500 cells in series deliver 7.4 volts under load, which is pretty close to what 3 CR123 cells deliver under load. Do your own research about the light you're considering, it will not work in some lights.

    5 Chargers

    As I said before, most cheap chargers do not quit charging by themselves. The following cheap chargers are proven to quit charging by themselves:

    Xtar wp6 - The best cheap charger if you're using 18650's IMO. Has a better charging algorithm than the following two chargers, but not yet perfect.

    DSD charger – charges pretty slow and often only to 4.10 volts, but won’t overcharge. <=== Watch out with this one, I have received 2 defective chargers in a row, one did not charge at all, one kept charging in constant current mode which overcharged my cells pretty badly. When the charger is plugged in without a cell, the LED should be flashing red-green-red-green, when the cell is in the charger it should be either constant red (when charging) or constant green (when done charging). If the LED is not flashing when the charger is plugged in without a cell inserted you have a defective charger.

    WF-139 charger – The old version of this charger had a trickle charge once the green light is on. The new charger apparently doesn’t; but beware, especially when ordering from cheap Chinese sites it is possible that you get old stock and your charger does overcharge. This charger also does not have the best charging algorithm, meaning it will shorten the life of your cells. Not dangerous in itself, but not good either.

    The Pila IBC charger is regarded to be the safest and most reliable plug-and-play charger. It’s more expensive, but it’s the best and safest you can get without buying a hobby charger, like the guys flying remote controlled planes use..

    Using one of these chargers is no excuse to leave your cells on the charger or leave your cells unattended for prolonged periods. Always take the cells off the charger when the green light comes on.

    6 Further reading

    Rechargeables & Flashlights
    MD's Rechargeable Compatibility chart / guide for popular flashlights: Lists the most common rechargeable chemistries used and has a list of popular flashlights and their known rechargeable configurations.
    MDs Lithium-Ion > Incandescent guide + compatibility / comparison chart: Basically the incandescent version of this guide, with a list of possible configurations. This guide was my inspiration for creating my guide. It's a great guide, but aimed at incandescent lights and some things do not count for LED flashlights.

    Li-ion cell chemistry and safety measures

    Lithium Ion Categories: A list of the most common Lithium-Ion chemistries with their important characteristics explained.
    Photos of Protected Lithium Batteries: A thread in which you can see the protection circuit being removed from a Li-ion cell. Good to illustrate the difference between protected and unprotected cells.
    Li-ion protection technology and possible dangers: A thread about the different types safety measures in Li-ion cells and how they work. Lots of information, but a lot of work to read it all.
    Lithium Battery Safety Guide: A PDF file which contains a lot of safety information about how to treat both primary and rechargeable lithium cells, especially when they're leaking / venting with flame / playing terrorist cell. It's aimed at seafarers, but the information applies to lithium cells anywhere.


    A big thank you to everybody who has helped me make this guide. Battery university, various CPF members who did a lot of research and gathered the information I combined and corrected my work, scientists, engineers ... And off course flashlight manufacturers. We all love them, and sometimes hate them. I guess that's it for now. Enyoy your light.
    Last edited by JBorneu; 08-13-2010 at 08:25 AM.

  2. #2
    Flashaholic* Black Rose's Avatar
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    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    Nice job

    Personally, I'd remove Ultrafire from section 3.3.

    Regarding the note about cells being above 4.2v.
    A good general rule, but it has been noted by some of the resident Li-Ion experts that 4.2v +/- 0.05v is acceptable.
    That measurement is also highly dependant on the accuracy of the DMM being used.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    Gr8 work, just what i needed.

    I just got a Olight M20 warrior premium along with trustfire RCR123s

  4. #4

    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    Great guide!

    A couple thoughts:
    Quote Originally Posted by JBorneu View Post
    Only buy name brand cells. Be a snob. Itís for your own safety. AW sells Li-ion cells here in the CPFmarketplace and his cells are generally regarded to be the best cells you can get. They have the highest capacity and the best protective measures. Other decent brands include, but are not limited to: Sony, Sanyo, Panasonic and Ultrafire
    AW's aren't the highest capacity. The reason they're such a favorite is the rock-solid protection, consistent quality, and customer service, but the capacity is nothing special. Now that AW introduced 2.6Ah 18650s, the capacity isn't really lagging behind (they used to be only 2.2Ah), but you can get 3Ah cells that deliver substantially better capacity at low discharge rates. As with any battery type, the highest capacity always comes at a cost -- they're totally unsuitable for moderate to high discharge, so the 2.6Ah or so are usually a better pick anyway.

    These are some common Li-ion sizes:
    14500: The size of a AA cell.
    10440: The size of a AAA cell. Never protected. Do not use these without further research.
    16340 AKA RCR123: The size of one CR123 cell.
    17670: The size of two stacked CR123 cells.
    18650: These are the cells used in laptop battery packs. Thatís why this size cells is most researched and most developed and these have the biggest capacity / volume ratio.
    One other useful size you might want to mention was the 17500s; they're 1.5 CR123 cells, so you can stack 2 of them in a 3xCR123 light.

    4.2 Voltage
    The Li-ion cells weíre talking about in this guide deliver on average 3.7 volts under load and can deliver as much as 4.2 volts fresh off the charger. No primary cells do this, so most lights not designed to function with Li-ion cells canít handle them without problems.
    And that's where the 17500s shine -- 2 17500s at 4.2V starts at 8.4V, whereas 3 primaries @ 3V each start with 9V. Since the Li-ion hold up better under load, they work out great in most such applications.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    Quote Originally Posted by Black Rose View Post
    Nice job

    Personally, I'd remove Ultrafire from section 3.3.

    Regarding the note about cells being above 4.2v.
    A good general rule, but it has been noted by some of the resident Li-Ion experts that 4.2v +/- 0.05v is acceptable.
    That measurement is also highly dependant on the accuracy of the DMM being used.
    About the Ultrafire cells: They have less capacity and perform worse than the more expensive brands, but as far as I know protected ultrafire cells are also safe cells. If they are not, I will remove it. Maybe I should add a note about the performance, but if they're not dangerous I don't think they should be removed.

    The safe charging voltage is an issue indeed. Especially the accuracy of the multimeter is a problem here. You need a very expensive multimeter to have sufficient accuracy, I'm not really sure how I should put it so I picked the most cautious way for now.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    After a bit more research, I decided to remove Ultrafire after all.

  7. #7
    Unenlightened
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    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    Thanks for the info. I'm a newbie when it comes to batteries and li-ion. You mention "Less is not necessarily better; Li-ion cells like to be exercised a bit during charging. Charging too slow wonít hurt the cell, but it will reduce the capacity faster over time." Can you quantify "too slow" and how much capacity will decrease over time? I'm working on an application that scavenges energy using a thermo-electric converter. I'd like to charge a li-ion battery during down time so that I can power the device even when the TE isn't providing any power. The only issue is I have very little current available for charging. A couple of mA at best. I realize I cannot fully charge the battery, but that's OK. I only need 3.6V max to run my app. In fact, I want to keep my battery voltage between 3.3V and 3.6V. Is it possible to charge an li-ion battery with only a couple of mA?

  8. #8

    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    dal205: I honestly don't know enough to answer your question very well. The ideal charging current is often quoted as somewhere around 0.7C. Slower charging sure is possible, but I cannot specifically tell you how much faster the capacity of a Li-ion cell will be reduced on a slow charge.

    Do your own research about rechargeable cells while keeping your application in mind. From the voltage range you specified I would consider 3 NiMH / Nicad cells in series rather than one Li-ion cell though. But this is off topic, if you want to you can ask the battery experts of CPF for advice in the general battery forum or send them a PM.

  9. #9
    Flashaholic* DHart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    Nice summary... a must read for any li-ion newbie! You might want to include some links to the other li-ion primers on this forum for newbies to easily follow for more in depth info.

    As for cell size nomenclature, I believe the "O" at the end indicates a round cell body.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    If you don't mind me asking, why did you remove the Ultrafires?

    You stated "
    but as far as I know protected ultrafire cells are also safe cells. If they are not, I will remove it" - so did you find any indication that they are unsafe?

    I ask because me being a Li-Ion n00b bought Ultrafire 3AH from BJ for my Legion II... and I havn't found any info indicating that they are unsafe. But then I havn't looked for it either.

    tom


  11. #11

    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    "note to self" ....

    I just finished the 1st duty cycle on the Ultrafire 3AHs, and as the light shut down two of the batteries read 3.20V, and the last read 0.01V on my Fluke 87. I haven't tried recharging it yet - don't know if it's "safe" so I'll do it outdoors tomorrow.

    Hmm.... I think I will consider another brand next time....?

  12. #12

    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    He probably figured the odds of getting a cell with defective protection are high enough to remove UF from the running, as their QC isn't top notch.

    ~0 volts sounds like the protection circuit just tripped like it's supposed to, but you can never be too careful.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    wrt protection, what kind of protection is common in such batteries?

    - overvoltage?
    - undervoltage?
    - charge current?
    - discharge current?
    - temperature?

    Just before the light turned off (with 1 of 3 batteries at 0V) the light gave off 2 fast blinks every 6 or 7 seconds for s minute. Could this be the protection circuit? Is that common? (I don't know yet if the light has low-volt warning).

    Is the protection on Li-Ion batteries usually something that can be "reset" by putting them in a charger, or is it a "trip once and throw away the battery" ?

    t

  14. #14

    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    I suspect the two blink cycle is the Legion II's low battery warning. Kicking a cell in and out of protection wouldn't be that consistent.

    Discharge protection should reset when put into a charger. The cell doesn't die, though you generally want to avoid discharging a cell so far that the protection trips because it's not healthy for it to have the voltage drop that low.

    Cheap protected batteries will have over/under-voltage protection, and usually discharge current which doubles as short circuit protection. They pretty much never have charge current, reverse polarity or thermal protection.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    foo.spam: I removed the Ultrafire cells for two reasons:
    1) They have less performance and the chances of getting a cell with a bad component (including but not limited to a bad protection circuit) are higher due to (the lack of) quality control the cheap Chinese way.

    2) If the cells are dropped hard the protection circuit can get damaged and can short-circuit the battery. The metal wire you see on the side of a protected cell under the outer wrapping connects the positive side to the protection circuit which is connected to the negative side. This connection can short the cell if it gets dropped (hard - very hard) and the PCP breaks. This is something which can happen with any protected cell. However, quality cells should not explode violently / catch fire even if they are shorted. Instead the cell will vent slowly, leaking it's contents without catching fire / exploding. The cell will be ruined, the light might be ruined, but your hand will be safe. These safety vents are also present in most cheaper cells (the two holes on the positive nub), but the chances of them not working properly are much higher.

    Here is a thread where AW cells were compressed too much when tightening the tailcap (in a DIY mod, this will not happen in a production light). Luckily, it were quality cells, so nobody got hurt.

    Here is a thread where protected cells are taken apart to show what makes 'em work. In it, AW confirms his current cells have an improved layer of isolation to reduce the chances of shorts occuring when the cells are dropped / crushed in another way (one of the reasons why his cells are considered to be the safest).

    A flashlight is an illumination tool and it will be dropped, so the light and the cells in it should be able to survive hard drops. Protected Ultrafire cells, altough they are one of the best brands of cheap cells, are in my opinion not safe enough to withstand the abuse a user light will go trough.

    My advice to you: Don't obsess over it. Enjoy your light and your cells. But next time you buy cells for your $200 light, don't try to cut costs by using cheap cells. The Ultrafire cells are safe as long as you treat 'em very well, but know that they can't be abused, under no circumstances. Don't panick if you drop the light, but check the cells when you do. If they are hot or leaking, throw 'em somewhere they can't hurt anybody (and wash your hands very well and don't breathe the fumes). And make sure your dog / child doesn't go fetch them. If you're using your light for law enforcement / emergency services however, buy better cells. Use the Ultrafire cells when showing off to your neighbours and use quality cells when working.

    By the way, in a high-drain light like the Neofab Legion II the Ultrafire 3000 Mah cells last less long than better cells with lower capacity. The 3000 Mah rating is only true for slow drains, higher quality cell will have a higher true capacity at high discharge currents, meaning your light will run longer.
    Last edited by JBorneu; 08-08-2009 at 06:43 AM.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    I have a friend who produce Li-on cells.
    He has different cells available, from 2000mAh to 2400mAh, but his customers will use "Ultrafire 3000mAh" labels in them.
    So, I guess the real capacity of your cells might be a bit lower.
    He told me that his 2200mAh cells are the best, so I ordered a lot for testing lights.

    Yours, Neoseikan

    Quote Originally Posted by JBorneu View Post
    foo.spam: I removed the Ultrafire cells for two reasons:
    1) They have less performance and the chances of getting a cell with a bad component (including but not limited to a bad protection circuit) are higher due to (the lack of) quality control the cheap Chinese way.

    2) If the cells are dropped hard the protection circuit can get damaged and can short-circuit the battery. The metal wire you see on the side of a protected cell under the outer wrapping connects the positive side to the protection circuit which is connected to the negative side. This connection can short the cell if it gets dropped (hard - very hard) and the PCP breaks. This is something which can happen with any protected cell. However, quality cells should not explode violently / catch fire even if they are shorted. Instead the cell will vent slowly, leaking it's contents without catching fire / exploding. The cell will be ruined, the light might be ruined, but your hand will be safe. These safety vents are also present in most cheaper cells (the two holes on the positive nub), but the chances of them not working properly are much higher.

    Here is a thread where AW cells were compressed too much when tightening the tailcap (in a DIY mod, this will not happen in a production light). Luckily, it were quality cells, so nobody got hurt.

    Here is a thread where protected cells are taken apart to show what makes 'em work. In it, AW confirms his current cells have an improved layer of isolation to reduce the chances of shorts occuring when the cells are dropped / crushed in another way (one of the reasons why his cells are considered to be the safest).

    A flashlight is an illumination tool and it will be dropped, so the light and the cells in it should be able to survive hard drops. Protected Ultrafire cells, altough they are one of the best brands of cheap cells, are in my opinion not safe enough to withstand the abuse a user light will go trough.

    My advice to you: Don't obsess over it. Enjoy your light and your cells. But next time you buy cells for your $200 light, don't try to cut costs by using cheap cells. The Ultrafire cells are safe as long as you treat 'em very well, but know that they can't be abused, under no circumstances. Don't panick if you drop the light, but check the cells when you do. If they are hot or leaking, throw 'em somewhere they can't hurt anybody (and wash your hands very well and don't breathe the fumes). And make sure your dog / child doesn't go fetch them. If you're using your light for law enforcement / emergency services however, buy better cells. Use the Ultrafire cells when showing off to your neighbours and use quality cells when working.

    By the way, in a high-drain light like the Neofab Legion II the Ultrafire 3000 Mah cells last less long than better cells with lower capacity. The 3000 Mah rating is only true for slow drains, higher quality cell will have a higher true capacity at high discharge currents, meaning your light will run longer.
    I am... Flashlight designer, photographer, column writer...
    Check my works in CPFMP!

  17. #17

    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    Hmmm..... you learn as long as you live :-)

    I just bought them from BJ because they seemed to be high capacity...

    The Legion II definitivly deserves good batteries so I'll look into the AW's, and order some.

    Thank you all!

    -t

  18. #18

    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    The findings on the 3000mah UF cells are here, by the way:
    http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/....php?p=2884072

  19. #19
    Super Moderator
    DM51's Avatar
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    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    It is a great pity that people continue to ignore the overwhelming number of threads and posts there have been on CPF about the extremely poor quality of Ultrafire cells.
    Resistance is futile...

  20. #20
    Flashaholic HighLumens's Avatar
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    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    Thanks for this guide!!
    LiteFlux LF2XT Q4 NAT [faulty...]; Preon Stealth Black

  21. #21

    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    One day I just put two brand new 18650s into a brand new charger, they got hot immediately,
    So, I thought the charger caused short. But when I check the charger with multimeter, I found the +/- poles are not connected. Quite strange.
    I am... Flashlight designer, photographer, column writer...
    Check my works in CPFMP!

  22. #22

    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    Quote Originally Posted by JBorneu View Post
    Ahoy there

    10440: The size of a AAA cell. Never protected. Do not use these without further research.
    I've been using these for a year now. Bought them from AW for my Liteflux LF2. Should I be worried about them exploding in my pocket???

  23. #23
    Flashaholic* DHart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    Quote Originally Posted by broadwayblue View Post
    I've been using these for a year now. Bought them from AW for my Liteflux LF2. Should I be worried about them exploding in my pocket???
    If you monitor the cells closely to make sure they are not over discharged nor over charged and you should be fine. I use them exclusively in my LD01s, LF2XT, and K-103.

  24. #24

    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    Quote Originally Posted by broadwayblue View Post
    I've been using these for a year now. Bought them from AW for my Liteflux LF2. Should I be worried about them exploding in my pocket???
    The Liteflux LF2 (and it's newer variants) is one of the very few AAA lights with overdischarge protection and full Li-ion support. Program it so the overdischarge protection is on, do not use maximum mode for any extended ammount of time and recharge your cells often if you use it a lot. I EDC an LF2X running on a li-ion cell myself, nothing to worry about if you're careful and responsible (and you're using AW cells in a light made to be run on Li-ions and you read this thread so in all probability you are). The main danger is the light getting too hot on maximum mode. I programmed mine so the 2 stages are set on lowest low and as bright as possible without any heating of the light. That way, if it comes on in my pocket, even it it gets twisted all the way to P2, it won't get too hot. The user-adjustable mode is set to maximum, so if I want to show off, it's just a quick 2-switch away.

    In my personal opinion, it's not a good idea to run the Fenix LD01 or the Akoray K-103 on 10440's. There are a number of threads discussing this so I won't go any further than saying that in the context of this thread (newbies and Li-ions) I will not recommend it to anyone.
    Last edited by JBorneu; 08-26-2009 at 06:44 AM.

  25. #25

    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    Very useful post. Thanks.

  26. #26
    *Flashaholic* LuxLuthor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    -----
    Last edited by LuxLuthor; 09-27-2009 at 06:40 PM.

  27. #27
    Flashaholic* Brasso's Avatar
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    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    I recently purchased an AW10500 protected cell and a WF-139 charger from Lighthound. Is there anything particular that I need to be worried about with this setup?

  28. #28

    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    Quote Originally Posted by Brasso View Post
    I recently purchased an AW10500 protected cell and a WF-139 charger from Lighthound. Is there anything particular that I need to be worried about with this setup?
    I can't find a 10500 cell on lighthound and I have never heard of it before. Do you mean a 14500 (AA size) cell? If so, make sure nobody puts it in anything designed only for regular 1.5 volt AA cells (children, spouse etc.). Other than that, no.

  29. #29
    Flashaholic* Brasso's Avatar
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    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    Sorry, typo. Meant 18500.

  30. #30
    Flashaholic* Vesper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Using Li-ion cells in LED flashlights safely

    So when I use my 2x18500's in a light until it cuts out, this is the protection circuit kicking in, right? If so, is this bad practice? My light (in this case a MC-E) doesn't dim, just drops below voltage and turns off.

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