Emerging Risks in Fire Investigation: Battery Fires

Fire Investigation is the application of fire science to determine the cause and development of a fire. The University of Edinburgh has recently appointed two new members of staff to grow this research area.

This project will focus on understanding the fire behaviour of materials which are emerging as leading causes of fire, especially batteries. Understanding gained and developed through this project will be directly relevant to fire safety of transport systems such as cars, buses and aeroplanes and to the shipping industry which is concerned over containerised transport of batteries in ocean freight containers where a number of fires have occurred.

Batteries have become a ubiquitous source of power across all sectors of industry. New technologies are emerging with higher energy density at lower cost. This has resulted in increasing the breadth of battery design and application from portable electronics to electric vehicles and large back-up power systems. The leading technology for high power applications is currently based on a lithium ion chemistry. These batteries constitute a unique fire hazard due to the flammable organic electrolyte and the high energy density. With one failure in every 4 to 5 million cells produced, and recent high profile fires involving batteries, such as on the Boeing 787, the need for improved understanding is clear.

The outcome of this project will be improved fundamental understanding of batteries in real fires and will be closely linked to fire investigation through part-supervision by Prof. J. Lygate (IFIC Forensics). Review of previous battery fires and gathering statistics will guide the fundamental research.  IFIC, with clients permission, are making available anonymised records of battery fires to provide context for the project.

This project will study batteries exposed to fire conditions. These conditions can arise from e.g. internal faults, adjacent heat sources or mishandling. The project will focus on characterising by experiment the ignition and burning behaviour, the products of combustion and analysis of batteries post-fire.

This will contribute to the body of knowledge allowing a better and more detailed understanding of the mechanisms and risk of battery fires and provide guidance as to how such fires can be prevented.

Further Information: 

Closing Date: 

Thursday, August 31, 2017
Engineering working under the Forth road bridge

Principal Supervisor: 


Minimum entry qualification - an Honours degree at 2:1 or above (or International equivalent) in a relevant science or engineering discipline, possibly supported by an MSc Degree. A strong background in chemical or mechanical engineering or chemistry with a solid grounding in the principles of heat transfer and chemical reactions. Experience of fire science or combustion would be beneficial but not essential. English Language requirements for EU/Overseas applicants.


  • Studentships will cover University fees (at UK/EU), plus a stipend for 3.5 years at the enhanced EPSRC rate (£15,766 for 2016/17)
  • Deadline for applications: Open all year
  • Further information and other funding options.

Informal Enquiries: