Exploding Cellphone Batteries. Thoughts ?

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by monster_catfish, Sep 22, 2011.

  1. monster_catfish

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Mar 17, 2011
    110
    107
    Burning some papers on a barbeque grill out back some years ago, and forgetting that I had discarded a cellphone battery in that trash can, I had momentarily turned away from the fire when that little Nokia battery pack ignited and peppered the back of my neck with molten plastic. After that stark and unforgettable illustration of how much kinetic energy those unassuming little battery packs unleash when they are incinerated, I developed a healthy respect for the inherent dangers of these innocuous cellphones that we all carry in our pockets next to the family jewels, and place next to our heads.

    A couple of days ago, I was watching a TV program on the morbid subject of unusual deaths, when one of the recorded instances in which a cellphone blew up in someone's ear was described in harrowing detail. Those mini-napalm fragments, which merely burned small pockmarks in my skin from 3 feet away, when I inadvertedly left a cellphone battery in burning trash were, in that TV re-enactment, driven deep into a cellphone user's head, killing her instantly.

    All this brings me to my question here, which is whether there are certain conditions, outside of accidental incineration, in which a cellphone battery could spontaneously combust while in use, or while simply being carried about. Could say forgetting one's cellphone in a locked car on a hot day have the effect of lowering the ignition threshold of that phone's battery ? Also, are there any telltale signs of internal degradation and instability that one can discern by visually inspecting cellphone batteries ? Finally, is anyone here aware of any particular cellphone makes and models that, rightly or wrongly, have earned a reputation for blowing up without warning ?

    I did a forum search here, but didn't spot any references to this particular aspect of cellphones, hence my decision to ask now. Thanks in advance for any information that can be offered.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2011
  2. DerStrom8

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2011
    2,428
    1,328
    A few years ago there was something going around the internet. Apparently somewhere in France, someone left their cell phone on the dash of their car when they went to work. It got very hot and ended up exploding, completely obliterating the dashboard and front sitting area of the car.
    I just did a google search and found the following story, in which the same thing happened to someone else:

    http://www.2da6s.com/2009/07/cell-phone-exploded-inside-car/

    Also found this, where it exploded next to someone's ear (WARNING: Somewhat graphic images):

    http://www.droiddog.com/android-blo...s-on-owner-explodes-somewhat-graphic-imagery/
     
  3. Markd77

    Senior Member

    Sep 7, 2009
    2,803
    594
    It can happen with Li-ion batteries, normally because of a manufacturing defect or overheating. Packs that are bulging may be in danger.
    If you go down to the safety and recalls sections on this page.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium-ion_battery
     
  4. monster_catfish

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Mar 17, 2011
    110
    107
    This is really unsettling news DerStrom8. Everyone uses a cellphone, and yet a simple sequence of errors can turn them into mini fragmentation grenades.

    The first person to invent completely safe and stable cellphone batteries will rake in a major fortune, without question.
     
  5. monster_catfish

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Mar 17, 2011
    110
    107
    Just read your post as well, Mark, and then quickly tossed out a suspiciously swollen battery pack in one of my spare cellphones. How it got that I way I don't know, since I don't recall ever exposing that cellphone to abnormal heat. Much obliged for the caution.
     
  6. Adjuster

    Well-Known Member

    Dec 26, 2010
    2,147
    300
    The cellphone may be hazardous, but a typical laptop battery must be at least an order of magnitude bigger. I understand that they have been implicated in a number of fires, sometimes blowing up very suddenly.

    That must however pale into insignificance compared to the sort of battery required by an electric vehicle. Even a lead-acid battery of that capacity could be a dangerous proposition if shorted or disrupted in an accident, but the prospect of (say) car-sized lithium batteries is truly frightening.

    However hard the manufacturers try to reduce the accidental risk, what if...
     
  7. strantor

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 3, 2010
    4,302
    1,988
    I had a HTC EVO a while back. It's pretty poor design IMO. It is a device that has all the processing power of a laptop, with a camera and built-in boom box and a battery to power it all packed into a package that fits in your pocket (if you wear man pants). So why is it that laptops have a few square feet of heat sinking bulk, plus a cooling fan, but this pocket device has the heat sinking bulk of a deck of cards and needs no fan? Well, my answer is it should. The thing would overheat in my pocket. so prone to thermal runaway, just the heat given off by my leg would cause it to heat up and start running away. it would get uncomfortable; I would have to take it out of my pocket. I had the phone sitting on my bed once (100% battery) and I unwittingly set my laptop on top of it while I went to the commode. when I got back after 10 min, the phone was too hot to touch. I picked it up and immediately dropped it. it showed "<5% battery life remaining, please charge" I let it cool down and charged it back up, and oddly enough this overheating actually seemed to improve my battery life from that point forward. it would actually stay charged all day after that.
    I left it in the car also (100 degrees outside for about 30min) one time with similar results, but no effect on battery life that time. It never exploded, but like I said, bad design, unsafe. I don't have that phone anymore partially for that reason.
     
  8. debe

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 21, 2010
    946
    184
    Its not only phone batterys, this was a 9v alkaline battery just sitting on top af a cupboard in my kitchen. Get up in the morning to find bits or debri on kitchen floor & find this :eek: This battery was replaced from a smoke detector & been sitting for at least 6mths.
     
  9. DerStrom8

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2011
    2,428
    1,328
    I once had a regular lead-acid car battery explode while i was standing about ten feet from it. I can't remember exactly what was going on--it was a long time ago, but it was sitting in my car and I was doing something, maybe preparing to jump-start it. Anyway, I was walking away from it, perhaps to get some jumper cables, and all of a sudden I heard a loud bang and spun around. I saw that the top of the battery case had blown completely off, and the sides were somewhat melted from the "explosion". The cells themselves were completely exposed, and there was acid all over the place. I'm just glad I wasn't closer to it when it went off...
     
  10. JoeJester

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 26, 2005
    3,373
    1,159
    Not to drag this off too far, but I noticed the user named Monster Catfish. I would have thought his avatar would have been ...

    [​IMG]

     
    DerStrom8 likes this.
  11. monster_catfish

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Mar 17, 2011
    110
    107
    Thanks for that picture of a Giant Mekong record setter, JoeJester.

    Being a fan of a monster fish species as shown in Dr. Zeb Hogan's National Geographic TV series, there is NEVER an inappropriate time to bring up the subject of freshwater behemoths.

    Derstrom8, that was a close shave fer sure. I remember reading someplace a few years back that the Russians had developed revolutionary new battery packs, for use in their space programs, that are supposedly constructed with thermally stable materials that store charge for unbelievably long durations of time, and weigh but a tiny fraction of what currently used batteries do. Hopefully some day that life-changing power-storage technology will become commercially available.
     
  12. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
    20,766
    2,536
    I'm still rooting for EEstor to be real.

    One of the core problems is any really high energy storage also has the potential for extreme violence. During the 90's a storage system using a fly wheel in a vacuum and magnetic bearings came out. It was supposed to be able to power a car for 600 miles.

    However, it spun a a quarter million revs per second at full charge (think about that in terms of kinetic energy), then think of what could happen in a minor fender bender. I can understand why it was dropped.

    Even the EEStor probably has problems in that reguard. Gasoline doesn't release all it's energy all at once in an accident, electronics tends to. The scenes of major fireballs on movies and TV are exaggerated. I've always suspected a major super capacitor with C4 as a detonator would make a dandy weapon.
     
  13. Adjuster

    Well-Known Member

    Dec 26, 2010
    2,147
    300
    Well Bill, now that you've broached the subject, I'll finish off saying something that occurred to me as soon as this thread got going. It strikes me that, supercapacitors aside, even big rechargeable vehicle batteries might have some serious potential for abuse. I do not know whether truly explosive behaviour would be possible, but technologies using reactive metals like Lithium might lend themselves to making very powerful incendiary devices, which would be hard to put out using ordinary fire appliances. A number of bad fires have broken out in battery factories, and in some cases the local fire services have decided to let them burn out as being too dangerous to tackle.

    An ordinary car containing one battery would be bad enough, but presumably these things would have to be freighted about between their manufacturers and vehicle factories or repairers. Imagine a large lorry (truck) load of them! You might try to make rules about not transporting them fully charged, but that would make no difference to the bad guys. I rather hope that I'm wrong about this.
     
  14. saturation

    Member

    Dec 21, 2008
    22
    4
    Li rechargeable batteries can explode when overcharged or if the case is punctured, and then charged. It can react violently with water or water vapor. Much goes into preventing this from imbedded circuitry within the cell, and in the charging system. If your battery is deformed in any way, with bubbles or blebs in the case, or it gets too hot to touch it should be discarded.
     
  15. tom66

    Senior Member

    May 9, 2009
    2,613
    214
    I had a dead 2200mAh 3S LiPo so I decided it would be fun to puncture it.

    NOT A GOOD IDEA!

    BOOM, flames and smoke everywhere, luckily I had some water spare, dumped it in there and it went inert quickly but it taught me a lesson...

    Don't mess with LiPos!
     
  16. strantor

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 3, 2010
    4,302
    1,988
    seems to be a divergence of information here
     
  17. tom66

    Senior Member

    May 9, 2009
    2,613
    214
    I can confirm that water will extinguish a LiPoly battery. The reaction is lithium with oxygen; so submerging it in water will quickly remove the oxygen, preventing further reactions.

    Salt can be added to the water, like I did in my case, but many say it has no effect. :confused:
     
  18. strantor

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 3, 2010
    4,302
    1,988
    I guess that's why this guy does his overcharging experiments under water:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7PmuKalY1k
     
  19. monster_catfish

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Mar 17, 2011
    110
    107
    My cellphones' displays usually indicate a full charge after about 3 hours, but every once in a while I do side-tracked and wind up forgetting how long the phone has been connected to the mains.

    I suppose a good rule of thumb would be to communicate with homing pigeons when the stability of one's cellphone battery is in doubt. Its all enough to make one pine for the olden days of yore...not.
     
  20. DerStrom8

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2011
    2,428
    1,328
Loading...