What Causes Phone Battery Explosion?

18 September 2017

Phone batteries are called Lithium-ion battery (Li-ion battery) which is abbreviated as LIB.  They are rechargeable and are constructed with basically three components which are; the positive electrodes, negative electrodes and; the electrolyte.

Commercially, the materials used for the three components are

  • The Positive electrode used for construction is a metal oxide which is either a layered oxide, a polyanion or a spinel.
  • The negative electrode used is made from carbon which is always graphite.
  • The electrolyte is basically a lithium salt that is mixed in organic solvents such as ethylene carbonate or diethyl carbonate

The different material choices determines the battery voltage, battery life, energy density and the safety of the phone battery.

Why phone battery explodes?

Phone batteries are basically made up of electrodes and electrolytes. The various chemical reactions that happens within the battery and also the physical reactions outside the battery often causes it to explode. The various causes are explained below in the next section.

The causes of phone battery explosions.

The most recent phone battery explosion scandal is that of the Samsung galaxy note 7. The Samsung galaxy note 7 devices had to kill the production of the smartphones and recalled the phones from the various customers offering them a full refund or exchange for a Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge. Also another popular battery explosion is the Hoverboards explosions back in 2016.

A Samsung phone damaged due to battery explosion

The various causes of phone battery explosions are;

  1. Short Circuits: short circuits occur when the two electrodes of the Lithium-ion phone battery contacts each other which then results in energy being redirected to the electrolyte contained inside. As energy is being pumped inside the volatile electrolyte, it becomes unstable and the electrolytes reacts with other chemicals creating heat and gases which then generates thermal runway that causes the battery to burst into flames. There are several ways in which a short circuit can cause phone battery explosions and they are;
  • Physical damages: when the phone or phone battery falls accidentally or it is deliberately hit, it can cause a puncture on the thin sheet of plastic holding the electrolyte within the battery hence causing the electrolyte to leak out thereby bridging both electrodes.
  • Metal scraps: small metallic objects may be present inside the battery during its manufacturing process thereby causing a short circuit between the electrodes hence setting off a thermal runway.
  1. CPU Overheat: sometimes when the CPU overheats, it might alter the charging process or algorithm of the phone battery hence triggering an explosion.
  • Faulty Battery Chargers: the use of faulty or wrong phone battery chargers can cause an explosion as the charger might supply more current than the battery or its control circuit can handle. Also the charger might be designed for a different power system entirely. However there are some smart charging solutions that can provide efficient and fast charging processes for your phones, such can be found via this link https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/usbidi-the-world-s-most-intelligent-charger-ever-tablet-smartphone

There are however research works being conducted to prolong the battery life, energy density, cost reduction, to produce fast & efficient charging technologies and also to improve the design of the batteries especially in making electrolytes that will not catch fire if overheated.

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