Articles, Blog

Why Are Smartphone Batteries Combusting?

Why Are Smartphone Batteries Combusting?

It’s that time of year again: people are
upgrading their smartphones to the newest, flashiest model. But some customers are getting a little too
much bang for their buck. At least 90 people who bought Samsung’s
Galaxy Note7 smartphone have reported that the phones are overheating, causing burns,
or even catching on fire. Both Samsung and the US government’s Consumer
Product Safety Commission have officially issued a recall of Galaxy Note7s that were
sold before September 15th. It is just too dangerous to use these phones,
because of a battery-related manufacturing problem. A battery is made of a positive electrode
called a cathode and a negative electrode called an anode. These electrodes connected by a liquid or
gel called the electrolyte, which lets charged particles move around. The chemical reactions inside a battery generate
electrical energy, as electrons or ions flow from one electrode to the other A lithium-ion battery, specifically, is a
rechargeable battery that can be really compact. So they’re used in all kinds of electronics,
from cell phones to laptops. Its cathode is made from a lithium metal oxide
and its anode is made of graphite, and they’re kept apart by a thin polymer separator that
still lets lithium ions flow back and forth. When one of these batteries is being charged,
lithium ions flow through the electrolyte from the cathode to the anode. And when you’re using the battery, they
move in the opposite direction. Because of lithium’s atomic structure, these
batteries can store a lot of energy, which is great for things like cell phones. But it’s not so great if something goes
wrong, like if the battery is overcharged or the separator between the electrodes gets
damaged. If the separator gets punctured, for example,
it can cause a short circuit, since the lithium ions would flow through the new path of least
resistance. A short circuit can cause a buildup of heat,
which can cause more heat-generating chemical reactions inside the battery, and it might
start degrading in what’s called thermal runaway. That’s when the battery might catch fire
or even explode. There’s a very small chance that this could
happen in any device that has a lithium-ion battery that’s poorly designed or installed
– like, that’s why you hear about hoverboards combusting. In the case of these early Galaxy Note7s,
the batteries are probably overheating because of a manufacturing problem. Samsung thinks that a production error put
too much pressure on the battery inside some of the first phones to be manufactured, squeezing
together the cathode and anode, which can cause a short circuit and all that excess
heat. So people charging or using their phones normally
are all of a sudden getting hurt by overheated batteries. Basically, the only way to fix it is to swap
your phone out for a not-so-dangerous one – that’s the reason for the recall. So if you bought a Galaxy Note7 before September
15th, you should probably go do that before it burns a hole in your pants. Now, you know who probably could survive an
overheating battery fire and not even give a crap? Tardigrades. Also known as water bears, tardigrades are
a phylum of adorably tiny invertebrates with four pairs of legs, tube-shaped spiky mouths
… and superpowers. They’ve been found in extreme environments,
from the bottom of the ocean to boiling hot springs. Scientists have dehydrated them, blasted them
with radiation, and even shot them into the vacuum of space. And they’ve survived every time. In a paper published in Nature this week,
Japanese researchers found some of the genes that make tardigrades so tough – including
a protein that can also protect human DNA from radiation damage. A team of scientists, led by a researcher
from the University of Tokyo, sequenced the genome of the tardigrade species Ramazzottius
varieornatus. They found more of the genes that are known
to help with cell survival in other animals, like by reducing oxidative stress and repairing
damaged DNA. Plus, they found a new protein that binds
to nuclear DNA strands, that they called Damage suppressor, or Dsup, because they thought
it might protect DNA somehow. To test their hypothesis, scientists added
the Damage suppressor gene to cultured human kidney cells, so that these cells were making
the tardigrade protein. Then, they pummeled the cells with X-ray radiation,
which can cause breaks in one or both strands of the DNA double helix, and some hydrogen
peroxide, which also damages DNA. And the cells with this tardigrade protein
had much less DNA damage than the unprotected cells! More protected cells stayed alive, and some
even kept dividing, as if they hadn’t been irradiated at all. The scientists looked for the Damage suppressor
gene in databases of other animals’ DNA, but they couldn’t find it. So the extra protection might be unique to
tardigrades. And this is probably just one of many genes
or proteins that help them cope with biological stress. By understanding what makes super-survivors
like tardigrades so dang tough, maybe eventually we can figure out some new ways to protect
our own cells from harsh environments. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow,
which was brought to you by Audible. Right now, Audible is offering SciShow viewers
a free 30-day trial membership which comes with one free download. And you can keep that download, even if you
decided not to continue with the service! So go to to sign up for
the trial and browse their unmatched selection of audio programming. You can choose any title that looks interesting
to you. I recommend checking out The Name of the Wind
by Patrick Rothfuss: a book that I love a lot- it’s one of the greatest works of the
modern fantasy. And it’s a really good audio book I have
listened to it and also read it, that’s how good the audiobook is. So go to and download
your free title today.


i just want to know why phones don't have lanyard hoops like every other small electronic onthe fucking planet ?

seriously i had to duck tape a keychain loop to it so i can stop dropping the dam things and breaking them

Had to search why the tardigrades name was "Ramazzottius" seen that "Ramazzotti" is the surname of a popolar italian singer and a brand of italian potable bitters… but seems that it is after Giuseppe Ramazzotti, who studied a lot the tardigrades back in the 60s.

Actually they're right. Don't try to correct people if you don't know what you're saying. In a galvanic cell, the anode is negative and the cathode is positive. The anode is the source of electrons and the cathode is where they flow. In electrolytic cells, it's the other way around.

I've actually watched several videos about the Note 7 mentioning the battery problems at varying levels of detail. One thing that has never been explained, however, is why replacing only the battery itself is inadequate. Why can't the phone stores swap out the battery? Why does it have to be a whole device replacement?

It would be very cool to genetically design humans based off of that tardigrade damage suppressor gene. Think of how useful that will be when Trump decides to nuke all non-americans!

I believe the cathode is the negative electrode and the anode is the positive electrode, not as stated in the video. Check on wikipedia, or any physics textbook for that matter.

The batteries are not "combusting", they are developing a short circuit. this results in "bolted current" which delivers the bulk of the battery charge in one relatively uninterrupted pulse of current. This is similar to pressing the accelerator pedal of a vehicle to the floor while in neutral. The installation of the battery during manufacture caused damage to the battery.

Slight mistake in the battery explanation; cathodes are negative & anodes are positive, he's probably confusing them cations which are positive & anoins which are negative.

I wonder if we can use our understanding of the tardigrade to genetically alter ourselves to be better adapted to live in space.

The Note 7 is now dead, a 70-day old model, gaining itself the triumphant position of "The Shortest-lived Samsung Phone Ever".

sooo, you made a video about demigods (aka Tardigrades) and decided that the titular thing about it would be some phone battery?

also, if humans ever decide to incorporate tardigrade DNA into ourselves, we can are become TARDIGRADES! FEAR THEM MORTALLLLLLSSSSS

Not that I am complaining, but does anyone else think the lowkey change in subject from smartphone batteries to Tardigrades was a bit, weird?

"I want a water bear as a pet"
"How are you going to take care of it?"
"What do you mean 'take care of it?'. I can't kill it!"

So Tardigrades will someday mutate humans into freakish monsters like in resident evil and we'll be left screaming, "WHAT HAS SCIENCE DONE!!"

You made a mistake the cathode is negatively charged since it attracts the cations and the anode is positively charged since it attracts the anions

Now at least three iPhone Plus 7 phones have caught fire one in Australia, two in the US.

what do you mean maybe we can figure out new ways to protect our cells.. it sounds like that new dna is working great.. give me some of that!

ANion = A Negative ion. So, the cation is positive.
The anions go the the anode and the cations go to the cathode.
I think the diagram at 1:04 labels them incorrectly or else the lithium is negative and the graphite is positive. But that makes no sense with an alkaline metal in the reaction.

I had a preordered Note 7, and did have battery issues, like the phone going dead at 40% charge, and it got hot while charging, it didn't explode as I exchanged it in the recall pretty early. Then had to return the replacement a couple weeks later before I could fly… Was a fun experience.

Name of the wind its probably my favorite book.

I actually have to listen to talking (no white noise and such won't work) to sleep. Like mystic tends to vary a bit too much while static sounds with nothing to concentrate on put me on edge. But fairly consistent talking helps me focus and relax.

Until you say name of the wind and suddenly I'm awake lol.

Those are not adorable. They are gross looking monster bugs. If it was a foot long and in your house you wouldn't think it was adorable.

no, i will not google search this:

am i wrong, but i thought anodes are positive. "AND"odes quoth my teacher from school that one time.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *