Cambridge EnerTech’s

Post Incident Forensics & Investigations

October 25, 2019


As the energy capacity of new batteries increases, the risk of battery fires and explosions also increases. Although battery safety incidents are rare, they are a serious cause for concern. When incidents happen, court cases can follow.  It is important to understand what causes these malfunctions so that they can be prevented in the future. Scientific findings from pre- and post-investigations can help determine the cause and guide safety regulations.


7:00 am Registration

7:30 Continental Breakfast Breakout Discussion Groups*


8:45 Chairperson’s Remarks

Michael Stichter, PhD, Mechanical Engineer, Failure Analysis, ARCCA

8:50 Why Lithium-Ion Batteries Fail, And What to Do About It

Michael Stichter, PhD, Mechanical Engineer, Failure Analysis, ARCCA

In this presentation, we will be discussing the forensic investigation of battery fires – the investigation process, preservation of evidence, etc., as well as how forensic engineers determine the various causes of battery failures or fire. Numerous case studies will be included.

9:20 Laser-Synchronized Imaging of Explosions

Kevin L. McNesby, PhD, Team Leader, Detonation Science Team, Energetics Technology Branch, Lethality Division, Weapons and Materials Research Directorate, US Army Research Laboratory

The presentation focuses on methods of imaging explosions of solid energetic materials using camera-synchronized laser illumination. The techniques presented allow for mapping of temperature, pressure, chemical species, and energy deposition during and following detonations of explosives, using high-speed cameras as the main diagnostic.

9:50 NTSB Investigations of EV Crashes and Incidents with Battery Fires

Thomas Barth, PhD, Senior Accident Investigator and Biomechanics Engineer, Office of Highway Safety Board, National Transportation Safety Board

The National Transportation Safety Board has conducted several investigations of electric vehicle crashes and incidents that involved fires and stranded energy of the high voltage battery. The investigations focused on the emergency response, secondary response, and stranded energy. This presentation will summarize the investigations and current issues being developed for a NTSB Special Report on Electric Vehicle Battery Fire Safety.

10:10 Networking Coffee Break

10:45 Tools of the Trade: Battery Fire Forensics

Mike Eskra, CFEI, CFI, PMP, President, Eskra Technical Products, Inc.

Many times, after a fire, there may be remains of a battery that is suspect to be causal to the fire. Unfortunately, these remains are often only partial remnants of the original battery. Certain techniques, such as X-ray, CT scans, and witness reports are used to identify the device the battery was used in, and the battery, to allow for exemplar acquisition and testing. This talk will discuss techniques utilized to identify specific battery manufacturers, defects, and failure modes to assist in validating origin and cause.

11:05 Case Study Panel Discussion: Forensics of a Drone Fire Moderator: Mike Eskra, Eskra Technical Products, Inc.

Panelists: Matthew Wagenhofer, PhD, PE, FORCON International

C.J. Flaherty, PE, CFEI, FORCON International

Paula Ralston, Research Specialist, Eskra Technical Products, Inc.

Every case has at least one Plaintiff and one Defendant. In this scenario, there was one Plaintiff, one targeted Defendant, and a secondary Defendant. What are the requirements to develop the case through reporting and subsequent depositions, trials, and/or settlements?

  • Mike Eskra, Plaintiff - Gather facts, evidence, possible site exam. Test hypothesis and eliminate hypotheses that don’t work, while staying within a budget of 5% of the initial loss.
  • Matthew Wagenhofer, Targeted Defendant - Looking for facts or information to disprove or weaken the Plaintiff’s case.
  • C.J. Flaherty - Secondary Defendant - Looking for facts or information to disprove or weaken the Plaintiff’s case or strengthen own defense.
  • Paula Ralston - Plaintiff - Defense’s first line - “It wasn’t ours”: Find solid evidence to show what burned up and what battery was involved.

12:15 pm Sponsored Presentation (Opportunity Available)

12:45 Luncheon Presentation (Sponsorship Opportunity Available) or Enjoy Lunch on Your Own

1:15 Session Break


2:00 Chairperson’s Remarks

Joe Nowikowski, Division Manager, Rimkus Consulting Group, Inc.

2:05 Investigation of Heat Transfer in Li-Ion Battery Pack of a Hoverboard

Ankur Jain, PhD, Associate Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, The University of Texas at Arlington

Several recent hoverboard fires have been attributed to the Li-ion battery pack. This presentation summarizes experimental and numerical investigation of heat transfer in the battery pack. By disassembling a hoverboard, cell temperature measurements are carried out in extreme operating conditions. A novel cooling approach that uses relative air flow is demonstrated. Numerical simulations are shown to be in good agreement with measurements. These results contribute towards safer battery packs for hoverboards.

2:35 Hoverboards Case Study

Vidyu Challa, PhD, Technical Director, ANSYS-DfR Solutions

3:05 New Investigation – Recycled Batteries in Shipment

Joe Nowikowski, Division Manager, Rimkus Consulting Group, Inc.

This talk will focus on a real-world investigation on recycled batteries in shipment. The methods of determining safety incidents will be discussed.

3:35 PANEL DISCUSSION: E-Cigarette Case Study

Although rare, lithium-ion battery safety incidents can happen. This panel dives into how the lessons learned from these safety incidents and subsequent litigation lead to new battery standards and regulations.
Moderator: Joe Nowikowski, Division Manager, Rimkus Consulting Group, Inc.

4:35 Conference Wrap-Up

4:45 Close of Battery Safety Summit

* The program is subject to change without notice, due to unforeseen reason.

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