While Lithium-based batteries are much better than the Nickel–metal hydride ones of a technological age past, they do have a major, concerning drawback. They have a propensity to catch fire, and sometimes explode – something Samsung knows all too well after their Galaxy Note 7’s started detonating.
It’s not just Samsung’s batteries that could potentially immolate you though, it’s something inherent to the technology, which is why many airlines severely restrict passengers from carrying too many Lithium based batteries in their luggage.
There have been many attempts to make these sorts of batteries safer, but they have a habit of severely lowering their performance. It’s probably safe to say that many users in this digitally-connected world would be happy to sacrifice safety for longer battery life. A group of researchers at from Stanford University seem to have finally worked around that issue – by creating Lithium-ion batteries with built-in fire extinguishers.
They’ve added a flame retardant chemical, triphenyl phosphate, to their batteries. Should said batteries reach a working temperature of 150 degrees Celsius, the batteries release the extinguisher and cease functioning. According to their tests, it can stop batteries from going up in flames within 0.4 seconds.
“Using our ‘smart’ separators, battery electrochemical performance will not be affected by the flame retardant under normal conditions,” says lead project scientist Yi Cu. “However, once there is a potential thermal runaway, the flame retardant will be activated and nip the fire or explosion in the bud.”
This is technology that I’d assume Samsung is very much looking in to, after its Galaxy Note 7 devices started catching fire and exploding, prompting the company the recall the device – and completely halt production and sales.
“Taking our customer’s safety as our highest priority, we have decided to halt sales and production of the Galaxy Note 7,” Samsung said in a statement, also saying earlier that “Samsung will ask all carrier and retail partners globally to stop sales and exchanges of the Galaxy Note 7.”