Note 7 Mobile Phone Explosion – The Reason and Why It was Recalled


Some of you may have heard about the recall of the Galaxy Note 7 mobile phone on Sept 2016. You may also know that it was because the company had found out that the mobile phone batteries were defective, and generated a lot of heat which lead to an explosion. But do you know how and why this happened?

Well, there’s actually no one to blame for this because lithium batteries in mobile phone are naturally dangerous. All thanks to its design. These batteries have only a thin and porous polypropylene strip preventing the electrodes from touching.

There’s a chance of the electrodes coming in contact when the separator is breached, and this produces lots of heat. Lithium batteries were recently the cause for exploding headphones on a plane.

Besides, the batteries are filled with a flammable electrolyte that combusts if heated up. So it’s not surprising that the battery ignites when heated! To make things worse, the compound in the battery can burn your skin.

However, it’s because lithium batteries are highly efficient that they are still so much in use. They carry lots of power, enough to power a mobile phone or laptop through the day.

They are also mature in technology but tend to get more volatile the progress in technology. The main reason may be because people look for higher capacity but cheaper and slimmer batteries.

Why do we still use lithium batteries in mobile phones?

This is the question that pops in most people’s minds after reading about its dangers. Well it’s mainly because the batteries offer lots of benefits like:

  • They have the highest energy density amongst today’s technologies, in terms of both volume and mass. So they are rather lightweight and compact in structure.
  • They easily fit into most battery spaces.
  • They can be recharged a few times before they lose capacity.
  • The batteries run on a large charge/discharge cycle that doesn’t damage the battery.

Rules about carrying lithium batteries in airplanes

Did you know that these risks in the batteries have lead to specific rules to be followed about carrying them on airplanes? For example, the number of portable electronic devices (PED) and spare batteries a passenger can carry depends on the rechargeable battery’s Watt-hour (WH) rating or it’s lithium content. These PEDs containing batteries includes electronics like mobile phones, cameras, laptops and tablets with batteries.

Each passenger is permitted to carry a maximum of 15 PEDs in an airline, and the operator may approve more if necessary. Similarly, each person can carry a maximum of 20 spare batteries while the operator can approve carrying more.

The PEDs have to be carried as carry-on baggage and if it’s checked in, then it should be completely switched off and not in sleep or hibernation mode. Appropriate measures should also be taken to protect it from possible damage and any unintentional activation.

In the case of spare lithium batteries, they have to be adequately protected to prevent short circuits. This means they have to be placed in its original retail packaging or on insulating terminals like taped over exposed terminals or placed in separate plastic bags or protective pouches. They have to be carried in carry-on baggage only.

Objects that contain lithium cells, like power banks which power other devices, are also considered to be spare batteries, and have to be used as carry-on baggage only.

Electronic cigarettes containing batteries, including e-cigars and other personal vaporizers, are to be in carry-on baggage. They cannot be recharged on board the airplane, and passengers have to ensure there’s no accidental activation.

Smart luggage with integrated lithium batteries contravenes regulatory requirements. This is because the battery may exist for various reasons like charging electronic devices and for Bluetooth or Wi-Fi capability.

So smart luggage with lithium batteries has to either be carried into the cabin or its batteries removed and carried in the cabin if it’s checked in. In case the battery is meant to charge other devices and is irremovable, then it’s not permitted on the flight.

Beware of swollen mobile phone

The most important thing to remember is that swollen batteries are considered to be the most dangerous. So do not use or charge them if swollen. In fact, a puffed up device is the best indication of a damaged battery.

It puffs up because the chemicals in it produce unnecessary gas. There’s a high chance of it popping and catching fire either on its own, or the next time it’s charged or discharged.

While the design and nature of lithium batteries is the main possible cause for exploding lithium batteries, even other factors can lead to an explosion. They are production and design flaws, charger problems, industry competition and damage by the user like dropping it and subjecting it to continual wear and tear can trigger an explosion.

However, despite these triggers, the possibility of lithium batteries exploding is really low. While there are billion mobile phones and computers in the world today, there are only a few accidents or explosions.

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