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Samsung Galaxy Note 7: The case of exploding smartphone lithium-batteries, explained

In the last month there has been a fiasco which involved Samsung Electronics which made headlines all over because of it's Galaxy Note 7's batteries. Samsung had launched its flagship smartphone, Galaxy Note 7, quickly in order to have an advantage before Apple unveiled its iPhone 7.

By: | New Delhi | Updated: September 15, 2016 4:46 PM
samsung battery, battery explosion, samsung galaxy battery, samsung news, samsung Galaxy Note 7, Galaxy Note 7 explosion, Galaxy Note 7 battery, phone news If the manufacturing is not correct, the cathode can get deposits, which in turn generates heat and may go on to cause an explosion in the battery. (Reuters)

In the last month, there has been a fiasco which involved Samsung Electronics which made headlines all over because of it’s Galaxy Note 7’s batteries. Samsung had launched its flagship smartphone, Galaxy Note 7, quickly in order to have an advantage before Apple unveiled its iPhone 7. But the reported exploding of faulty batteries had received a lot of flak. Samsung then went to recall almost 2.5 million of those smartphones from 10 countries, which disrupted its stock value. Airlines recently banned the smartphone on flights, and or asked passengers to put them inside checked baggage.

But the moot question is what makes these batteries explode? There have been many recent cases burning to smartphone batteries. The answer is in ‘lithium batteries’. Lithium is the lightest metal which is highly flammable. But how does lithium work inside a battery? There are four components inside the battery. A cathode which has lithium, an anode which has graphite and an electrolyte and a circuit outside. When the phone is working, the ions move from the anode to the cathode according to basic laws of physics, which makes the electrons move too, which produces energy which powers the device.

So where can it go wrong? There are many things that can cause problems in a lithium ion battery. If the manufacturing is not correct, the cathode can get deposits, which in turn generates heat and may go on to cause an explosion in the battery. Other that that, if a battery is put in charge even after reaching the full mark, more voltage gets in and can heat up the battery and cause explosions. However, manufacturers generally have a circuit that regulates the voltage to prevent such incidents. Since Lithium also reacts with Oxygen, any bubble which may get formed in the electrolyte can cause a violent reaction.

From Tesla Motors to Boeing Jetliner’s use the Lithium batteries and have mired in the exploding battery controversies at some point or the other. The problem generally arises because of manufacturing defects. The batteries are preferred by electronic companies since they are lightweight and have more power to provide. But since the walls on the battery body are too thin they at times cannot manage the high voltages. In Samsung’s case to the batteries exploded since the battery could not contain the defect which made the electrodes come together which caused the blast. Apart from manufacturing defects, overcharging and other combustions also cause the burning. So the moral of the story is, the companies should stop making batteries packing in more power, as manufacturers have nearly reached the theoretical maximum efficiency, till they do not discover a better method to create batteries.

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