In 2016, we were reminded of the potential danger of a faulty or defective cell phone battery. Faulty lithium ion batteries used in the popular Galaxy Note7 smartphone were frequently exploding, prompting a recall of the phone. As we usher in 2017, the threat of dangerous, explosive battery fires may be a thing of the past thanks to a new invention.
Researchers at Stanford University have developed a device that can prevent a lithium ion battery from catching fire. If implemented by cell phone manufacturers, this “mini fire extinguisher” would act as a failsafe against defective batteries. It would also allow manufacturers to use more effective power sources for devices such as laptops and smartphones without increasing their risk of combustion.
The innovative new product is a capsule of flame retardant contained within a small shell that would fit within a battery pack. If the battery became too hot, the containing shell would melt and expose the flame retardant fluid, effectively preventing ignition.
Lithium ion batteries are commonly used in consumer electronics such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and cameras. If they’re damaged, charged or discharged to quickly, or exposed to extreme temperatures, these batteries have a high risk of catching fire. Once ignited, a chemical chain reaction generates more and more heat, resulting in a rapidly burning, dangerous fire.
The number of devices that rely on lithium ion batteries continues to grow. This includes electric cars, which house arguably some of the largest lithium ion batteries on the market for consumer products. Considering the severity of the fire is directly related to the size and containing charge of the battery, a damaged car battery has the potential to be much more catastrophic than an exploding phone battery. Innovations such as this capsule are a critically important and much needed step towards we remain safe while the technology around us continues to advance.