No more explosions! First non-flammable lithium ion battery may make smartphones safer

No more explosions! First non-flammable lithium ion battery may make smartphones safer
We read regularly about that epic moment in a smartphone owner’s life, the device explodes in a pocket, or while charging. Sometimes, these incidents cause serious damage to property or harm to the user.

There are a number of reasons why these things happen, not the least of which is user negligence. However, lithium-ion batteries are highly flammable and these incidents are not limited to smartphones or other consumer electronics.

Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft have been grounded several times over the past year due to problems with that aircraft’s lithium-ion battery packs. Given the other efficiencies the Li-ion batteries offer however, they are here to stay.

When you think about it though, battery advances do not seem to be keeping pace with other sectors of technology. It would be nice if we could start seeing higher capacities in ever shrinking packages. That progress seems to be coming rather slowly, but there is another front where battery technology could use some help, flammability.

Li-ion batteries are explosive for two primary reasons, they are pressurized and the electrolyte that carries the charge is flammable. Since we are waiting for more power, making the current crop of batteries less flammable is an obvious goal worth reaching.

Enter researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. These scientists claim they have developed the first non-flammable lithium-ion battery. This was achieved by replacing the electrolye’s flammable organic solvent with an industrial lubricant known as perfluoropolyether (PFPE).

PFPE is usually used in maritime applications to keep sealife from sticking to the bottom of large boats. Joseph DeSimone, the research lead in this development, determined that dissolving a lithium salt in PFPE did the trick and it resulted in a battery that not only was not flammable, but indicated possibly longer battery life for good measure.

“These electrolytes not only are completely nonflammable, but they also exhibi unprecedented high transference numbers and low electrochemical polarization, indicative of longer battery life,” according to DeSimone’s summary.

Research must continue to see if this discovery can be put to practical use, and if such a design can withstand consistent charging and discharging like any other consumer device. Then there is also the challenge of finding a way to mass produce these new batteries.

For those that may think that is an easy task, just look at what lithium-ion batteries endure before they explode in the video below.

source: ExtremeTech



1. InspectorGadget80 unregistered

Think Apple should buy that company. They always experience with explosives iphones.

3. Mxyzptlk unregistered

You're ignorant. Apple is not the only oem that have had exploding phones and even so it came from the use of using a cheap china made cable. Or you forgetting about Sammy's S-Plode feature?

4. domfonusr

Posts: 1088; Member since: Jan 17, 2014

I seem to remember an HTC device blowing up recently... well, maybe not extremely recently, but I seem to remember it being reported in the news not too long ago, in the last year or so.

5. ihavenoname

Posts: 1693; Member since: Aug 18, 2013

Considering that both sell tens of millions of devices, the explosion/flaming percentage is laughably low, and usually malfunctions are caused by third party parts. And I've read article of 920 melting inside (it's on Finnish, but I can link it if someone wants really to read it), so it happens to all phones. Not really a big problem on any specific smartphone model/oem.

10. Astoni

Posts: 649; Member since: Sep 28, 2013

Hope you know that all chargers are Cheap china made cables... but maybe a little more safely made. I've heard tons iphones and Android devices explode but never a Lumia device? :p. Would love to see that to :D

13. GeekMovement unregistered

While a lot of the issues were 3rd party accessories, there was that one recent article about the school girl who didn't use 3rd party accessory for her iPhone and it still exploded during school. Was there any updates on that news?

9. Chris_Bakke

Posts: 247; Member since: Jan 23, 2013

Are you insinuating that Apple should buy a public university?

15. tedkord

Posts: 17417; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

They don't need to buy it. Now that the news is out they can just apply for a patent on it.

2. AfterShock

Posts: 4147; Member since: Nov 02, 2012

Throw a hunk of lithium onto a lake at night for a sparkly good time. It is the magic smoke.

6. domfonusr

Posts: 1088; Member since: Jan 17, 2014

I know a guy that got a block of pure potassium (also in the alkali metal group) and did that... not only did it flare up, but it also started jumping out of the water, and the wooden bridge that they threw it in from eventually caught fire. The fire department had to come out and put out the blaze, and also recover the hunk of potassium that was still left at that point. The dude and his drunken friends were all arrested. He had been a high school chemistry teacher, and lost his job over the whole thing.

8. AfterShock

Posts: 4147; Member since: Nov 02, 2012

Well, that sucks for him. Though I heard a similar story a good thirty years ago. Not throwing water on your post dude, just saying, it's popular.

12. domfonusr

Posts: 1088; Member since: Jan 17, 2014

Ah, no worries. Sodium, lithium, potassium... all very fun when combined with water. I've never seen this done, but I am told that Rubidium in water is brutal... the further up the alkali metal line that you go, the more extremely low the electronegativity becomes, and hence the more reactive it is with water and such.

16. tedkord

Posts: 17417; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

20. domfonusr

Posts: 1088; Member since: Jan 17, 2014


17. tedkord

Posts: 17417; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

7. Joshing4fun

Posts: 1246; Member since: Aug 13, 2010

Not really a concern for me. Maybe 1 in 100 million blow up? Maybe I'm just a dare devil.

11. Muayyad

Posts: 240; Member since: Oct 05, 2012

I think there is a fail safe program in most devices if not all

14. serrano989

Posts: 39; Member since: Apr 02, 2012

Good. My old lg phone battery exploded a couple years back.

19. domfonusr

Posts: 1088; Member since: Jan 17, 2014

Yeah, LG's batteries make me worry sometimes. I've had an LG feature phone once that heated up to scary levels when charging, and eventually the battery started to bloat and bend a little, and I now have an LG feature phone that still heats up a little bit during charging. My LG Viper doesn't seem to have any of these issues at this time, but I keep my fingers crossed...

18. gernie

Posts: 5; Member since: Feb 07, 2014


Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.