The new, literal, lithium boom: throughout last year, the reports about the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 explosions did grab local and international press, forcing some airlines to forbid that gadget on board.
Since the problem turned out to be a failure in lithium batteries, which had also caused explosions in electric scooters and electronic cigarettes, just how frequently does this kind of accident occur?
Batteries: Why Lithium Ions?
Compared to traditional batteries, lithium-ion batteries charge faster, last longer and have a higher power density, making the battery lighter and powerful. They are just becoming something essential in our day to day, but many are unaware of how they work.
Batteries are in the candlestick more than ever. Pokemon Go, Tinder, Facebook Messenger and a bunch of others apps we are dependent of nowadays, consume them in a flash, and for a change, the concern seems to have spread to another device: wireless headphones.
The First Known Case of Explosion of Wireless Headphones
So the issue of carrying lithium on a plane is making some noise and turning quite severe and alarming. Recently on a flight from Beijing to Melbourne, the wireless headset of a woman exploded in her face while listening to music in mid-flight.
For the rest of the flight, the blast left her face filled with ash and blisters on her hands, and other passengers could smell molten plastic, burned hair and electronics.
Australian authorities declined to mention either the make or model of the headset, nor the name of the airline where the incident occurred, and asserted that those details “are not important.”
Thinking wisely, forewarned is forearmed. So while devices with lithium batteries are increasingly produced in greater quantity, they would then pose potential problems in flights.
You can still carry your classic wiring in your pocket —although you’ll always have to untangle them, ha!— or if your thing is to sleep while tripping around the clouds, some others with noise canceling functionality may suffice.
BOOM! Why Do They Explode?
Let’s start with the assertion that the batteries, as a rule, are safe and very rare that they do explode. The really dangerous component of the battery is due largely to its flammable character, the electrolyte.
When a battery explodes, it is usually due to manufacturing defects or a bad use of the device, resulting in a chain reaction:
- Excess temperature takes place in a particular area of the battery by overload or heat.
- The reaction extends between circuits affecting the rest of the battery, which overheats it.
- The electrolyte boils by exerting pressure on the battery housing, which begins to swell.
- Unable to withstand the pressure, the battery casing yields and the electrolyte to burn.
- It is quite likely that the device with which you are reading this article has a lithium battery.
- The explosions of lithium batteries are produced by short circuits that can be avoided by keeping the batteries in the original packaging or isolating the battery terminals by covering the exposed terminals.
- Cellular lithium batteries are lightweight and inexpensive but have a higher risk of overheating than other types of batteries.
- Lithium batteries do not need a first charge to maximize their life.
- It is bad for the battery to go below 20% charge, instead try to charge it around 50%.