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Home / Tips and Tricks / Why Do Phones Explode? (And how to prevent it)

Why Do Phones Explode? (And how to prevent it)



  A woman gasps when her phone goes up in flames.
HomeArt / Shutterstock

Every few years, exploding phones find a way to dominate the news cycle. And although these accidents are incredibly rare, they are a bit hard to understand. Why do phones explode? And how do I know that my phone does not explode?

Thermal runaway causes phone explosions

When a Li-ion battery explodes or catches fire, it is called thermal runaway. This process can be a bit difficult to understand, so we keep things short, sweet and free from scientific jargon.

Lithium-ion batteries contain one ton of Li-ion cells. Each of these cells has a critical temperature ̵

1; think of a boiling point. When the critical temperature of a cell is reached (due to external heat, overcharging, damage or inadequate manufacturing), an exothermic breakdown occurs. Basically, the cell itself releases a ton of heat.

  A diagram explaining thermal runaway
Wikipedia

This triggers the thermal runaway process, which is essentially a positive feedback loop (as in putting) a microphone next to a speaker). Once a cell enters exothermic degradation and gives off heat, the neighboring cells are destined to reach their own critical temperatures. Depending on the speed of this process, a battery can hiss softly, catch fire, or cause a small explosion.

Having understood the process of thermal runaway, it is much easier to pinpoint exactly how, when, and why phones (including Li-ion devices) explode.

If your phone or other device has a bloated battery, you should do something about it now.

CONNECTION: What to do if your phone or laptop has a swollen battery

Do not leave your phone in the car.

If you live in a snowy area, you probably know that car batteries work best when they're charged slightly, say 80 degrees Fahrenheit. You probably also know that too much heat can destroy a battery and other components in a car. The same applies to telephone batteries.

When a Li-ion battery discharges at high temperatures (outdoors or in the car), its cells may become slightly unstable. They may not enter into an exothermic breakdown, but may become permanently shorted, worsen or (strangely) produce gases such as oxygen and carbon dioxide. These gases can cause the battery to inflate like a balloon, creating pressure (energy that can cause an explosion) or jeopardizing the structure of the battery.

Of course, this process can accelerate if a Li-ion is charged at high external load temperature. Because of this, most phones stop charging or turn off when they get too hot.

That is, your phone probably will not explode after being left in a hot car for a day. And while permanent short circuits and pressure build-up can lead to thermal runaway, these slow forms of mechanical degradation usually cause a battery to break down before it can explode. In addition, phones and Li-ion batteries have built-in security features that prevent slow mechanical problems from getting out of hand. Keep in mind, however, that these security features usually cause your phone to die.

Use reliable or certified chargers.

In general, every charger works with every device. An old or cheap micro USB cable works with newer phones, and a brand new super quick charger works with old devices. However, you should probably keep to reliable good quality chargers or chargers certified by the manufacturer of your phone.

Cheap or non-certified chargers (especially shitty wireless chargers) can generate excessive heat and damage the phone's battery. Usually, this damage occurs over a long period of time, leading to "bubbles" or short circuits in your phone's battery. This kind of slow mechanical damage will almost always break your phone before it can go up in flames.

  Charging an iPhone in a Car
Casezy Idea / Shutterstock

But do not worry, a cheaper one The charger will not overload your phone (though this would undoubtedly lead to an explosion). Voltage limiters are integrated into the phones to prevent the battery from charging too fast or too fast.

It's surprisingly easy to find the right charger for your phone. You can purchase a charger directly from the manufacturer of your phone, search Amazon for battery charger before purchasing, or do a Google search for your phone's name as "Best Chargers." If you have an Apple device, you should do so Look for MFi-certified chargers, and if you're buying a wireless charger, look for a Qi-certified device.

Do not bend or stab your phone.

If a Li-ion battery is physically damaged, it may short out, build up gases, or go up in flames on the spot. This is not a problem to worry about unless you disassemble your phone or break it for fun. If you drop a phone, important components, such as the display, usually break before the battery gets damaged.

Why is this happening? Well, Li-ion batteries contain a thin layer of lithium and a thin layer of oxygen. An electrolyte solution separates these sheets. When this solution is broken or pierced, the lithium and oxygen layers react, causing an exothermic breakdown and thermal runaway.

In some cases, this can occur when replacing the battery of a telephone. The piercing or bending of a Li ion can lead to mechanical failures. If a battery is not handled properly during installation, it may ignite (immediately or over time). Recently, a woman's iPhone burned after the battery was replaced at an unofficial repair shop, and some Apple stores were concerned about fires when replacing iPhone 6 batteries.

Besides, as a side note, you should not stab batteries for fun. You may be able to avoid a fire or minor explosion, but you can not avoid the poisonous gas released by a burning Li-ion battery.

Most phone explosions are due to poor manufacturing

While overcharging and overheating sound like dangerous, battery-breaking nightmares, they rarely cause fire or explosions. Slow mechanical failures tend to damage a battery before the risk of thermal breakdown, and built-in safety features prevent these errors from getting out of control.

Instead, the fate of a phone is usually determined during the manufacturing process. If a phone is about to explode, you can not do much about it.

  A machine that assembles a smartphone
asharkyu / Shutterstock

Li-ion batteries contain lithium, an incredibly unstable metal. This instability is great for holding and transferring electricity, but can be catastrophic if not properly mixed with other metals. Unfortunately, Li-ion batteries must also contain nickel, cobalt and graphite. During the manufacturing process, these metals can form deposits on the manufacturing equipment, which can then contaminate the interior of a Li-ion battery and cause chemical instability, short circuits and explosions.

Bad mounting can also be a problem. Like a skyscraper or a car, Li-ion batteries are welded together from a variety of parts, and poor welding can generate a lot of electrical resistance. This resistance (friction) generates heat, which can lead to short circuits and mechanical problems within a very short time.

Relax, your phone is unlikely to explode

Throughout the Galaxy Note 7 controversy, the values ​​range between 90 and 100. Seven exploded, burned or overheated. This is less than 1% of the 2.5 million note 7 Samsung has put on the market. Of course, Samsung's worldwide recall did not increase those numbers, but it's clear that phone explosions are extremely rare.

Still, you should still pay attention to phones exploding. Avoid buying brand new phones and do a quick Google search before buying a new phone. While slow-forming mechanical problems rarely lead to phone explosions, this is not a risk worth taking. Do not leave your phone in a hot car, try to use reliable or certified chargers, and do not sting or bending your phone.

RELATED: Debunking Battery Life Myths for Mobile Phones, Tablets, and Laptops

Sources: Natural Communications / PMC, Battery University, Battery Power, Michigan Engineering


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