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
- 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.
batteries run on a large charge/discharge cycle that doesn’t damage the
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
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
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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