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    Demystifying The Science Behind Exploding Smartphone Batteries

    By

    October 15, 2016

    Demystifier : ED Original where the content is written in such a way that it is knowledgeable and easy to comprehend at the same time.

    The recent hoopla made in the name of Galaxy Note 7 smartphones was about exploding batteries. This period saw many Note 7s exploding and inflicting fear among its users. Then a plethora of memes and posts followed which tarnished Samsung’s image. The situation got so worse that pilots before take off were announcing to passengers not to turn on their Note 7.

    Samsung notified that all the Note 7 smartphones will be recalled and replaced. But when the replacements too started blowing off, they decided to stop its production. This was a bold decision by the company as companies try to improve a launched product rather than completely killing it off.

    The damage to the company has been severe. Not only it has incurred financial losses but also has besmirched its image in the industry.

    The company has still not succeeded in reproducing the explosions in their laboratory, they still haven’t revealed the exact reason behind the burning up of Note 7 smartphones or even whether they know the reason behind these explosions.

    But for now let’s see the science behind the batteries and to find the answers to How Do Batteries Work? Why Do They Explode? What Are The Causes Behind?

    How Do Mobile Batteries Work?

    As you probably know, electricity is the continuous flow of electrons through a conductive path. Batteries are generally made up of three parts: Two electrodes (One Positive and One Negative) and an Electrolyte (medium). The electrodes connect the electrolyte to the outer circuit.

    Image Credit: Enessy

    A chemical reaction in the electrolyte results in unstable and unequal charges at the electrodes. To neutralize this effect, charges flow from both electrodes through the external circuit until a balance is attained. This flow of charge results in the current.

    The electrolyte, however, has a limited ability to maintain the unbalance of charges to provide a continuous flow of current. When this ability vanishes the batteries are discharged and then you have to recharge it again for further use.

    Why Do They Explode?

    Batteries are made up of electrolytes which have chemical properties. The same chemical properties which work for the battery are the reason behind these explosions.

    As told earlier, electrolytes build up unstable charges at the electrodes which need to stabilize itself by the movement of electrons through the outer connected circuit.

    The outer connected circuit has some resistance which allows the electrodes to balance themselves in a controlled manner. But sometimes, this process of neutralizing unbalanced charges happens suddenly and without any resistance resulting in sudden outbursts of stored chemical energy in the electrolytes.

    What Are The Causes?

    Overcharging and/or fast charging of the battery may lead up to its explosion. Moreover, if somehow the separator which abstains the electrodes from touching each other malfunctioned then also it can explode.

    Electrolytes, as stated earlier, are not very stable to start with and the quick movement of charges they facilitate also adds up to its instability. Each time the chemicals react, heat is released which results in heating of your smartphones.

    When this rate of release of heat exceeds the normal limit, it could lead to a possible fire. This can happen in the case of fast charging.

    Overcharging of the phone can also results in battery’s damage. It doesn’t matter how slowly you recharge your battery, once it reaches its maximum point it starts getting fatal. Putting too much energy in your batteries will only ruin your phone.

    As our smartphones are getting more compact and smarter their need of having a powerful energy source also gets more essential.

    This also comes with a need of more care and attention but an easily attainable habit of taking care of your phone and its battery life will save you from this kind of encounters.


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    Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.

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