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I have read that it is possible to revive a dead Li-ion battery by putting it in the freezer for three to seven days, and then letting it get back to room temperature.

Can this process work, and if so, how does it work?

Notes:

  • Somehow the opposite, i.e. heating (cooking) the battery, is more intuitive to me. After all, in the dead battery, there is "something stuck" (crystallized?), and heat could break that. But I don't know if it's a good idea to try that at home. ;-)

  • I also found that hitting a Li-ion battery, against a table, for example, has some effect. At the moment, I have a battery in an IBM ThinkPad T41 laptop that, although still working, is on its way to death. When it runs flat and I connect the laptop to mains, then the battery is not detected properly (battery status LED continues blinking orange). So, I take it out, hit it, put it back in, and the problem is solved (LED constantly orange). Also, I have the impression that hitting gives some extra charge. It could be all just a coincidence, of course.

  • I am asking in part for a friend whose laptop battery has been dead, I believe, already for some weeks or months. He said that the battery is not that old, but he has let it run flat in cold weather (up in the mountains). Anyhow, whether the process works for this particular battery should not influence my decision on accepting an answer. I am primarily interested in understanding a little bit more about battery chemistry, just to broaden my general knowledge.

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  • $\begingroup$ A note: If you want sources to back up claims, I suggest you ask a similar question on Skeptics. Be sure to check that it passes their quality standards -- you need to collect links to where unsupported claims are made. $\endgroup$ Jul 6, 2013 at 17:02
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    $\begingroup$ I have no idea how this works (seems to have already been covered above), but I can confirm that this method (placed in freezer for 12 hours) has worked on two dead Li-ion batteries of mine. $\endgroup$
    – blackappy
    Apr 4, 2014 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ Well, maybe every battery works differently, but I has a battery I had not charged for long time and was not getting charged by the charger. So I did the trick and put my battery in the freezer for 12h, then, to go back to room temperature, I had it sitting on my desk overnight and now just plugged in the charger ... it is charging! $\endgroup$
    – Rho Phi
    Jan 21, 2016 at 8:59
  • $\begingroup$ Hitting Li-ion batteries can also cause them to leak and subsequently explode, please do not do that. $\endgroup$ Apr 2, 2018 at 21:16

2 Answers 2

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There are a number of rumors on the internet about different ways to treat your battery. Some of these involve putting batteries in the refrigerator or freezer for varying lengths of time to improve performance in some way. Snopes has concluded that there is no basis for this. However, batteries and battery aging mechanisms are very complex and so I think it's difficult to completely rule out the possibility that under some situations there could be some beneficial effect from freezing.

Nevertheless, I would recommend that you avoid using your battery in any way that it was not designed for. The reason is that internal damage to the battery (such as from extreme temperatures, moisture, or mechanical stress) could create a safety hazard. Even if cooking, freezing, or bashing does have some positive effect, it is probably not worth putting yourself at risk. The best thing to do is to recycle your old battery and buy a replacement.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks, this is certainly interesting! However, the article talks about extending the performance of batteries that still work, and I presume non-rechargeable ones. What I'm talking about is reviving a dead rechargeable battery. Though unlikely, perhaps a shock like freezing can help? $\endgroup$
    – feklee
    Jul 6, 2013 at 17:43
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    $\begingroup$ Right, the snopes article doesn't specify what type of batteries they're talking about. But as far as I know, there is no direct evidence that freezing can revive a dead Li-ion battery (besides maybe a few dubious anecdotes floating around the internet). But like you say, that doesn't mean that it's not possible. I realize this answer probably doesn't completely answer your question, but that's all I know. Also I just sent an email suggesting this idea to the MythBusters. Maybe they will test it for us! $\endgroup$
    – Max Radin
    Jul 6, 2013 at 19:22
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    $\begingroup$ This is a good answer from user point of view, but this is a Chemistry Q&A and I'd expect some chemistry in the answers. $\endgroup$ Apr 2, 2018 at 21:15
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    $\begingroup$ Also, the article in Snopes debunks this for alkaline batteries, but OP is asking about Li-ion batteries, which are completely different! $\endgroup$ Apr 2, 2018 at 21:17
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The idea of putting a Li-ion battery in the freezer as a method to revive it is a popular myth. It sounds like the perfect solution given its simplicity and cost-effectiveness. However, putting a Li-ion battery in the freezer is not a good idea. Let's break down why:

Lithium-ion batteries are sensitive to temperature changes.1 This is because freezing a battery can cause the electrolytes inside to contract and crystallize. Both of these can cause damage to the internal components of the battery.

Moisture is going to be a considerable problem once the battery is taken out of the freezer.2 As with the change in temperature, this can also damage the battery's internal components (leading to further damage.)

Let's say that moisture and temperature changes are a non-issue. There's little to no scientific evidence that supports the claim that freezing a Li-ion battery can revive it.3 In fact, most battery manufacturers advise against this method.

Now, let's address the other methods you mentioned:

Heating - Heating a Li-ion battery is a very bad idea. Excessive heat can lead to what's called "thermal runaway." This is where the battery overheats potentially causing it to catch fire or explode. Please never do this.

Hitting the battery - The idea behind this is that hitting a battery might temporarily solve a contact issue due to the physical jolt. (I had a friend who would beat her NES and, surprisingly, it worked.) This isn't an NES, though. Beating your battery can cause more harm than good and I would be afraid of it exploding. Please don't do this.


References

  1. Battery University - "BU-204: How do Lithium Batteries Work?" Battery University
  2. Energy.gov - "Lithium-Ion Batteries: Basics and Beyond" Energy.gov
  3. IEEE Spectrum - "The Secret Life of Batteries" IEEE Spectrum
  4. NASA - "Lithium-ion Battery Care and Use Guidelines" NASA
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