Solve the scenario

With your updated understanding of thermal runaway, it’s time to revisit the thermal runaway scene we saw at the beginning of this exploration. You might observe multiple potential causes for the thermal runaway.

This is the box that the e-scooter was packaged in. Before arriving in this household, the scooter was shipped from a manufacturer to a store, and eventually transported to this home.

This room is full of nearby lithium-ion powered devices.

The electric scooter is plugged into the wall outlet.

With so many devices comes an array of chargers. How can you be certain the scooter was plugged in with the right one?

This radiator is a heat source for the room. Consider the amount of thermal energy that is coming from here and its proximity to the scooter.

Your turn

What do you think caused the thermal runaway in this scenario? How do you think this could have been prevented? What information do you have that supports these claims?

Build your argument using the clues in the scene below, the information you’ve collected in your exploration, and the knowledge you have gained about how products are designed to prevent thermal runaway.

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What do you think was the most probable cause of the thermal runaway?

Choose the best answer:

Physical damage to the electric scooter
Overcharging the electric scooter
Overheating the electric scooter
Something else

Describe what you see in the room that supports your claim.

Use scientific knowledge you learned during the Science of Thermal Runaway Pathway to explain how the evidence supports your claim. Consider using terms like:

  • Lithium-ion battery
  • Separator
  • Circuit
  • Energy source
  • Conductor
  • Load
  • Short circuit
  • Voltage
  • Temperature
  • Thermal energy
  • Electrochemical energy
Asset: Solve the Scenario

Define the problem

In your own words, describe the problem of thermal runaway.

  • What is thermal runaway?
  • Name a lithium-ion battery-powered device and describe a potential cause of thermal runaway in that device’s battery.

What are your ideas for a solution to the problem of thermal runaway?

  • What are your ideas for solving the problem of thermal runaway? Specifically, design an intervention to limit the cause that you listed above.
  • What are the features of your solution? How exactly do your design’s features limit the cause?

Engineers often keep going to redefine and redesign an engineering solution. If you have time, go back and think about a second problem that could cause thermal runaway in that device. Add to your solution in order to limit the effects of the second cause.

Now that you’ve defined the problem, you can begin to engineer the solution.

Ready to try the Science of Thermal Runaway engineering design challenge?

This resource includes 2 files:

Engineering Design Challenge: Student Guide (pdf, 585 KB)

Student guide to the battery enclosure engineering design challenge.

Engineering Design Process: Teacher Guide (pdf, 197 KB)

Teacher guide to the battery enclosure engineering design challenge.

Asset: Thermal Runaway Engineering Design Challenge
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