On Friday I was in Indianapolis with the Detroit Derby Girls travel team shooting a bout in an area roughly 300-400% brighter than their usual practice space. One of my lights was a 580EX II powered by 4x Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries in the flash, and 8x Powerex 2700mAh NiMh in a Bolt CBP-C1 auxiliary battery pack. The flash was running TTL controlled by a PocketWizard FlexTT5 with no compensation for about ten minutes when it stopped firing.
In that time, the Energizers got hot enough to melt their plastic wrappers and apparently did some considerable damage to the flash itself. The screen was off when I reached it, and cycling the power switch did nothing. I pulled the Energizers and replaced them with a fresh set of my usual Powerex AAs, but the flash still didn't power up.
I was using the lithium cells for their decreased recycle time - critical since the building was far brighter than usual, and I knew the flash would be firing at higher power to try to keep up. I've used lithium batteries in the flash before (they're recommended in the manual) with no issues, but I've probably never asked the flash to fire this hard and this often. Meant to load the battery pack with lithiums, but I had a brain fart and forgot.
I have a couple questions about how I could have avoided this. Did using the NiMh cells, with their higher internal resistance (therefore lower peak discharge current and reduced heat generation) in the battery pack with a different chemistry in the flash contribute to the problem? Why didn't the internal temperature monitor shut down the flash before it was damaged? In hindsight, it seems fairly clear the mixing chemistries between the pack and flash could cause a problem, but I haven't heard of this issue before.
Hopefully we can figure this out and save other photogs from either a $200 repair or a $480 replacement.