Modern Smartphone Battery Safety – The Li-Ion Issue


The Latest Smartphone Battery Recall – Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 Disaster

Look back into August and September 2016 and ask yourself the question “What is the most popular mainstream smartphone out right now?”……chances are if you aren’t one of the Cupertino sheep’s then you probably answered the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. And that was great, it was indeed undoubtedly the biggest and baddest release of the year. It was on the top of every android phone enthusiasts, including my, Christmas list. It asked the question “How big is BIG?” with its insane looking edge to edge display and super slim form was the phone to beat………until the light choked.


Consumers and Samsung itself was shocked after various reports hit the media about the Note 7’s catching fire and sometimes exploding like a time bomb, the first couple of cases were minor and almost accidental according to some people. But unfortunately for Samsung, over time they were anything but coincidental. Over 100 cases were reported worldwide of them unexpectedly ‘exploding’, the cases were so spread that the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) had to gear in and ban them from flights in certain airports. Samsung took charge and offered replacements until they could decode the mystery, but no luck, in some incidents even the replacements caught fire. This grew into a matter of public safety and the Korean giant had to pull the trigger at its own son, on October 24th the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was officially discontinued. It was a bummer for the Android world…a big one. Samsung started losing customers and its revenue started plummeting. Part of it was the fact that the time the Note 7 was setting a scene, Apple had a chance to slip through and launch the iPhone 7/7 plus to the market. It was great for the Cupertino folks. But ironically it seems that it’s time for Apple to take the heat, literally. In late 2016 there had been a couple isolated cases of some iPhone 7’s overheating and smoking up but the ‘isheep’ believed they were hoax and slid the matter under the rug.

Now though the idea has reappeared and there have been a few incidents of the Plus models smoking up. For example, this lady from Tucson, Arizona tweeted “So my IPhone 7 plus blew up this morning was not even using it, literally no explanation for this” on Feb 22, 2017 after she had her rose gold iPhone 7 plus gush up. Apple is looking into this for safety’s sake and trying to test its products. We still do not know what conditions the phone was in before the incident but I guess time will tell whether this was a coincidence or a start to a new debacle.



Lithium-Ion Battery Technology


Pioneering work for the lithium battery began in 1912, but is was not until the early 1970’s when the first non-rechargeable lithium batteries became commercially available. Attempts to develop rechargeable lithium batteries followed in the eighties. These early models were based on metallic lithium and offered very high energy density. However, inherent instabilities of lithium metal, especially during charging, put a damper on the development. Because of the inherent instability of lithium metal, research shifted to a non-metallic lithium battery using lithium ions. Although slightly lower in energy density, the lithium-ion system is safe, providing certain precautions are met when charging and discharging. Today, lithium-ion is one of the most successful and safe battery chemistries available

The high energy density of Lithium-Ion based batteries comes at a price. Manufacturing methods become more critical the denser the cells become. With a separator thickness of only 20-25µm, any small intrusion of metallic dust particles can have devastating consequences. Appropriate measures will be needed to achieve the mandated safety standards. Nail penetrations or foreign metallic substance intrusion to a batteries base could light up fires and sparks and cause massive damage, especially in today’s high-density 2.4Ah cell. Lithium-ion batteries are nearing their theoretical energy density limit and battery manufacturers are beginning to focus on improving manufacturing methods and increasing safety. Samsung’s issue with the Note 7 included accidental intrusions of metallic motherboard pieces into the battery sub frames along with malfunctioning temperature monitoring sensors leading to high energy battery combustion in certain cases. Samsung does now plan to recall all global Note 7 devices and conduct further battery safety tests before releasing future products.




Diaconescu, Adrian. “Melting IPhone 7 Plus Video-recorded, Apple Aware of Incident.”Pocketnow. Pocketnow, 24 Feb. 2017. Web. 24 Feb. 2017.