The future of smartphones: fireproof batteries


As technology progresses, mobile devices become more and more powerful and capable. But with the increased power, also comes a greater need for higher capacity batteries, capable of sustaining the needs of their host devices.

As of late, however — meaning the last couple of years — there has been a growing number of reports about smartphones, and other mobile devices, bursting in flames while charging, or much worse, while on their owner. Most notably, last year the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 faced a global recall due to a still-mysterious defect that caused many units to catch fire, forcing the Korean tech giant to pull its latest flagship from the market. If there is a bright side to this whole fiasco, it would be the fact that major tech companies and researchers alike have taken note and are working toward preventing such issues in the future.

To tackle the problem, researchers from the Stanford University have developed a Li-ion battery with a “nonwoven electrospun separator with thermal-triggered flame-retardant properties”, or in layman's terms, a battery with a de facto fire extinguisher built-in. While the concept is not exactly new, previous attempts have resulted batteries with significantly reduced performance. This one, on the other hand, performs just as well as it would without the new fireproofing system, claims Prof Yi Cui, the project's lead scientist.



The Stanford-developed battery employs a plastic fiber separator that keeps negative and positive electrodes away from each other, infused with a compound called triphenyl phosphate, which has flame retardant properties. If the battery reaches a temperature of 150 °C, the separator melts and releases the phosphate. The Stanford University research team claims that this method of dealing with overheating batteries can extinguish any flames within 0.4 seconds, which is mighty impressive.

While it will be some time until this method, or a similar one, is successfully employed in mass produced Li-on batteries, it's still reassuring to see that scientific researchers are constantly working on ways to solve overheating problems, or at least battle the consequences thereof.

On a semi-related note, LG has promised that the battery of the upcoming LG G6 won't overheat, thanks to a system of copper heat pipes that will drive heat away from the battery. To learn more about that, check out our story on LG's fireproof battery.

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15 Comments

1. aegislash

Posts: 1495; Member since: Jan 27, 2015

The caption under the photo at the top of the article is a bit of a stretch...."a common and unfortunate sight"...out of the several million sold, less than two hundred caught fire. I wouldn't call that a common sight by any means.

2. sissy246

Posts: 7111; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

it was less then 100 if you take away the fake reports.

13. Lyngdoh

Posts: 319; Member since: Sep 06, 2012

Just because a bomb didn't explode, doesn't mean it's not a bomb.

6. Mxyzptlk unregistered

No it isn't.

7. sissy246

Posts: 7111; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

92 total, 26 were fake = less then 100

3. Landon

Posts: 1245; Member since: May 07, 2015

Here's another idea: how about you come up with a non-explosive battery?

5. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

if you can make a dependable, long lasting battery, that is not made up of caustic or exotic materials that is safe, reliable, and cheap.. well then you would be a billionaire. Get to it.

14. Landon

Posts: 1245; Member since: May 07, 2015

4. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

Fireproof batteries have been a necessity long before the Note7 fiasco, as the Note7 wasn't the first electronic device to catch fire.

8. sissy246

Posts: 7111; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

True Iphones Other Samsung phones before the note 7. Hoover boards. E cigarettes These are just the ones I can think of, I am sure there are more.

9. sissy246

Posts: 7111; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Edit: oops hoverboards

10. mi7chy

Posts: 53; Member since: Apr 18, 2016

12. mikehunta727 unregistered

A fire in the cockpit from a device can be easily contained though.. but I agree in principle though, we need safer batteries all around for every scenario anyway and also batteries that can handle the cold/low temperatures better as well

11. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1324; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

This is actually more likely to come to market in the next 2-5 years than any of those super high capacity battery technologies that we've of.

15. dmitrilp_

Posts: 330; Member since: Sep 12, 2016

I guess all the other brands that had their phones lit up on fire don't mean nothing that only Samsung is mentioned in every article PA posts.

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