Recently, Stanford University researchers developed a prototype that could solve battery fires once and for all.
The world has gone mobile, and key to this shift is the advancement of battery technology. Small yet powerful batteries allow electronic devices to work far away from outlets for hours or even days at a time. Yet this technology has hidden dangers that cannot be ignored.
A Solid Solution
Lithium-ion batteries have a tendency to catch fire. This is a major concern for a lot of manufacturers as it can lead to massive liabilities. Users also need to be wary as their device could suddenly explode or melt down. It is bad enough if you are in your home or office but the consequences can be tragic if you are traveling in a place or caught in an oil rig fire. For more info about exploding battery visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_battery.
The solution featured a flame retardant enclosed in a shell within the battery itself. In case things got too heated, the shell will melt and release the chemical compound triphenyl phosphate. This occurs at a temperature of 150C or 302F. The fire can be put out in a as little as 0.4 seconds, minimizing damage to the immediate environment.
The results of the study have been published in the journal Science Advances here it has been peer reviewed. Further research is needed to improve the technology but things are already looking promising. This is a welcome development given the recent developments in the electronics industry.
The Problem with Lithium
There have been widely publicized battery problems in the past with Samsung’s debacle with the Galaxy Note 7 being one of the more memorable ones in recent memory. Even older technologies like lead-acid are potential fire hazards but lithium is now the dominant substance so it should be given particular attention.
Lithium-ion batteries are attractive as they are able to pack more power in a small volume. However, lithium is an alkali that is known for its high reactivity. Everything should work well under normal circumstances but any damage to the thin separators between the electrodes could lead to an internal short-circuit. Heat can quickly build up and the battery can burst in flames due to thermal runaway.
Battery Safety Features
This phenomenon well-known so designers have developed numerous techniques to contain the damage. In multi-cell batteries, for instance, each cell can be enclosed in its own protective compartment to isolate fire hazards. Special circuits are also built-in to prevent extreme charging. Now, the successful addition of a flame retardant into a unit advances fire safety even further.
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