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Why Are So Many Phones and Hoverboards Exploding? Batteries Are the Bomb!

Nov 13, 2016 05:26 AM EST

Modern human life has relied on batteries for almost as long as we can remember. But lately, incidents of cellular phones and hoverboards exploding because of faulty batteries have people on edge. Technological power player Samsung was forced to recall 2.5 million of their latest Smartphone release, the Galaxy Note 7, after reports worldwide that many were overheating, or even blowing up. Self-balancing scooters or hoverboards were also recalled by 10 firms due to fire hazards. Professor Richard Williams, Principal and Vice Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University, explained the main cause behind exploding devices in the Daily Mail.

In comparison to previous battery materials such as cadmium or lead, lithium-ion batteries are made with a lightweight metallic element that is less toxic than its predecessors. Williams explained that unlike earlier 'single use' batteries, they could normally be recharged thousands of times. The other clever innovation in lithium-ions lies in the detailed compact structural design of the layered battery. Smartphone batteries have a carefully planned structural design to optimize the thermal pathways. According to a report by European battery manufacturers, approved accompanying software-driven power system controls avoid overcharging and over-discharging the cells.

Most of these batteries can achieve an energy density of 100-watt hours per kilo to 270-watt hours per kilo. This translates to having far more power in a smaller space, a growing demand in the technological industry. The main issue is with more energy comes more heat. When the inside of a battery of a battery overheats, the packaging and physical space for expansion become increasingly critical. Production of batteries might have had insufficient consideration when it comes to heating issues. This can result in sudden friction or external heat that would lead to a spontaneous explosion.

In recent weeks, numerous airline passengers have had to surrender their Samsung Galaxy Note 7 since it was labeled as a fire hazard. Phones that had been left in baggage holds have delayed flights, creating a lot of chaos among passengers. On a similar vein, airlines had banned hoverboards a few months ago, again because their batteries were considered a fire risk.

Samsung initially said one battery supplier was to blame, though that's has been questioned in the weeks since, with phones sent out after the Note 7's original recall exhibiting the same problems. The company confirmed to MarketWatch that the faulty battery was indeed a lithium-ion one, though it declined to provide additional information. Market watch also warned consumers of exploding hoverboards, which also used faulty batteries.

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