Samsung Galaxy Note 7 battery woes a result of high capacity Lithium batteries

The recent battery cell issues in Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 handsets indicate why higher densities and capacities can undermine safety of users.

Smartphone batteries are featuring increasingly high capacities and density to make them last longer, but the risk of batteries blowing up has also increased.

Back in September, we covered how Samsung's haste in launching the Galaxy Note 7 a month in advance of the new iPhones resulted in a faulty battery issue that could have been avoided. According to the Bloomberg,  the batteries performed well during testing conducted both by Samsung's employees as well as operators. However, once the handsets reached the streets, they started exploding at an alarming rate. The totally unexpected chain of events forced Samsung to initially roll out a software upgrade, then initiate an exchange programme and finally recall all Galaxy Note 7 handsets sold worldwide.

Want to keep your phone battery in shape? Never charge it to 100%

Researchers at SolidEnergy Systems now believe that issues with smartphone batteries go beyond manufacturer oversight. Increasing demand for batteries with greater capacities and densities are forcing manufacturers to develop larger batteries which offer prolonged usage, but come with their own risks. "A battery is really a bomb that releases its energy in a controlled way. There are fundamental safety issues to all batteries, and as you get to higher energy density and faster charge, the barrier to explosion is less and less," says Qichao Hu, a researcher at SolidEnergy Systems.

Lithium ion batteries are usually preferred to power smartphones given that they can store a lot of energy in packed compartments. However, the more they are charged, their temperatures rise significantly and if not contained effectively, result in batteries heating up or even exploding. According to researchers at the Battery University, if you continue charging your phone even after the battery has reached 100% capacity, like in the case of charging your phone overnight, it may result in plating of metallic Lithium, the cathode material becomes an oxidizing agent and produces CO2, the current interrupt device disconnects and the safety membrane of the battery bursts open, causing flames and compromising your safety.

Samsung's haste in launching Galaxy Note 7 may have resulted in battery woes

"Lithium-ion is not the only battery that poses a safety hazard if overcharged. Lead- and nickel-based batteries are also known to melt down and cause fire if improperly handled. Properly designed charging equipment is paramount for all battery systems and temperature sensing is a reliable watchman," the researchers said.

While Lithium Ion batteries have so far been found to be the most appropriate for smartphones and tablets and safety risks have been few and far between, researchers at Stanford University recently developed an ultrafast rechargeable aluminium-ion battery which contains an aluminium anode and a graphite cathode that produce up to 2 volts of power over thousands of recharge cycles. The new invention, if proven over multiple devices and long life-cycles, will be a boon for smartphone makers and consumers alike. The aluminium-ion is much cheaper as well as combustion proof, meaning that there will be zero chances of the battery blowing up or burning out over heavy usage.

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