Samsung’s massive global recall of the lithium battery has once more focused attention around the hazards of lithium ion batteries-specifically, the hazards of lithium ion batteries exploding. Samsung first announced the recall on Sept. 2, and just a week later it took the extraordinary step of asking customers to immediately power on the phones and exchange them for replacements. The Government Aviation Administration issued a robust advisory asking passengers not to utilize the Note 7 and even stow it in checked baggage. Airlines all over the world hastened to ban in-flight use and charging in the device.
Lithium rechargeable batteries are ubiquitous and, thankfully, the vast majority work perfectly. They may be industry’s favored power source for wireless applications because of their extended run times. One can use them in anything from power tools to e-cigarettes to Apple’s new wireless earbuds. And usually, consumers take them for granted. In ways, this battery is definitely the ultimate technological black box. The majority are bundled into applications and they are not generally available for retail sale. Accordingly, the technology is largely out of sight and from mind, plus it will not have the credit it deserves being an enabler from the mobile computing revolution. Indeed, the lithium rechargeable battery is as important as the miniaturized microprocessor in connection with this. It might 1 day change the face of automobile transport as a source of energy for electric vehicles.
So it will be impossible to imagine modern life without lithium ion power. But society has taken a calculated risk in proliferating it. Scientists, engineers, and corporate planners long ago created a Faustian bargain with chemistry when they created this technology, whose origins date on the mid-1970s. Some variants use highly energetic but very volatile materials that need carefully engineered control systems. Generally, these systems serve as intended. Sometimes, though, the lithium genie gets out from the bottle, with potentially catastrophic consequences.
This takes place with greater frequency than it might seem. Since the late 1990s and early 2000s, there has been a drum roll of product safety warnings and recalls of 24v lithium battery who have burned or blown up practically every kind of wireless application, including cameras, notebooks, hoverboards, vaporizers, and now smartphones. More ominously, lithium batteries have burned in commercial jet aircraft, a likely aspect in one or more major fatal crash, an incident that prompted the FAA to issue a recommendation restricting their bulk carriage on passenger flights during 2010. During the early 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organization banned outright the shipment of lithium ion batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft.
And so the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco is not just a tale of how Samsung botched the rollout of their latest weapon inside the smartphone wars. It’s a tale concerning the nature of innovation from the postindustrial era, one which highlights the unintended consequences of your i . t revolution and globalization during the last 3 decades.
Basically, the main difference from a handy lithium battery and an incendiary one could be boiled as a result of three things: how industry manufactures these products, the way integrates them to the applications they power, and how users treat their battery-containing appliances. Whenever a lithium rechargeable discharges, lithium ions layered into the negative electrode or anode (typically made of graphite) lose electrons, which go into another circuit to complete useful work. The ions then migrate using a conductive material referred to as an electrolyte (usually an organic solvent) and grow lodged in spaces within the positive electrode or cathode, a layered oxide structure.
There are a selection of lithium battery chemistries, and some are more stable than the others. Some, like lithium cobalt oxide, a standard formula in electronic products, are incredibly flammable. When such variants do ignite, the effect is really a blaze that can be difficult to extinguish because of the battery’s self-contained availability of oxidant.
To ensure that such tetchy mixtures remain under control, battery manufacturing requires exacting quality control. Sony learned this lesson when it pioneered lithium rechargeable battery technology inside the late 1980s. At first, the chemical process the corporation utilized to make the cathode material (lithium cobalt oxide) produced a really fine powder, the granules of which experienced a high surface area. That increased the chance of fire, so Sony had to invent a procedure to coarsen the particles.
An additional complication is that lithium ion batteries have several failure modes. Recharging too quickly or excessive might cause lithium ions to plate out unevenly on the anode, creating growths called dendrites which may bridge the electrodes and create a short circuit. Short circuits will also be induced by physically damaging battery power, or improperly disposing of it, or perhaps putting it in to a pocket containing metal coins. Heat, whether internal or ambient, can cause the flammable electrolyte to generate gases which may react uncontrollably with other battery materials. This is called thermal runaway and is also virtually impossible to stop once initiated.
So lithium ion batteries should be provided with numerous safety features, including current interrupters and gas vent mechanisms. The standard such feature is the separator, a polymer membrane that prevents the electrodes from contacting the other person and creating a short circuit that could direct energy to the electrolyte. Separators also inhibit dendrites, while offering minimal potential to deal with ionic transport. Simply speaking, the separator will be the last line of defense against thermal runaway. Some larger multicell batteries, like the types employed in electric vehicles, isolate individual cells to contain failures and use elaborate and costly cooling and thermal management systems.
Some authorities ascribe Samsung’s battery crisis to difficulties with separators. Samsung officials did actually hint that this can be the situation once they established that a manufacturing flaw had led the negative and positive electrodes get in touch with each other. If the separator is in fact in the wrong is just not yet known.
At any rate, it can be revealing that for Samsung, the issue is entirely battery, not the smartphone. The implication is that better quality control will solve the problem. Certainly it could help. Nevertheless the manufacturing of commodity electronics is way too complex for there to become a simple solution here. There has been an organizational, cultural, and intellectual gulf between those who create batteries and those who create electronics, inhibiting manufacturers from considering applications and batteries as holistic systems. This estrangement has been further accentuated by the offshoring and outsourcing of industrial research, development, and manufacturing, a consequence of the competitive pressures of globalization.
The outcome is a protracted consumer product safety crisis. From the late 1990s and early 2000s, notebook designers introduced faster processors that generated more heat and required more power. The easiest and cheapest means for designers of lithium cells to meet this demand ended up being to thin out separators to make room for further reactive material, creating thermal management problems and narrowed margins of safety.
Economic pressures further eroded these margins. Through the 1990s, the rechargeable lithium battery sector became a highly competitive, low-margin industry dominated by a number of firms based mainly in Japan. From around 2000, these organizations started to move manufacturing to South Korea and China in operations initially plagued by extensive bugs and high cell scrap rates.
Every one of these factors played a part inside the notebook battery fire crisis of 2006. Numerous incidents prompted the greatest recalls in consumer electronics history to this date, involving some 9.6 million batteries manufactured by Sony. The organization ascribed the trouble to faulty manufacturing that had contaminated cells with microscopic shards of metal. Establishing quality control will be a tall order so long as original equipment manufacturers disperse supply chains and outsource production.
Another problem is that makers of applications like notebooks and smartphones may well not necessarily know how to properly integrate outsourced lithium cells into safe battery packs and applications. Sony hinted all the throughout the 2006 crisis. While admitting its quality control woes, the organization suggested that some notebook manufacturers were improperly charging its batteries, noting that battery configuration, thermal management, and charging protocols varied throughout the industry.
My analysis of United states Consumer Product Safety Commission recalls at that time (to get published in Technology & Culture in January 2017) suggests that there could have been some truth for this. Nearly 50 % of the recalled batteries (4.2 million) in 2006 were for notebooks created by Dell, a business whose business model was depending on integrating cheap outsourced parts and minimizing in-house R&D costs. In August 2006, the brand new York Times cited a former Dell employee who claimed the 02dexspky had suppressed numerous incidents of catastrophic battery failures dating to 2002. On the other hand, relatively few reported incidents in those days involved Sony batteries in Sony computers.
In a sense, then, the lithium ion battery fires are largely a consequence of the way you have structured society. We still don’t have uniform safety protocols for a wide variety of problems relating to 7.4v lithium ion battery, including transporting and getting rid of them and safely rescuing passengers from accidents involving electric cars powered by them. Such measures badly trail the drive to find greater convenience, and profit, in electronics and electric automobiles. The quest for more power and better voltage is straining the physical limits of lithium ion batteries, and there are few technologies less forgiving from the chaotically single-minded method by which people are increasingly making their way worldwide. Scientists are working on safer alternatives, but we need to expect more unpleasant surprises through the existing technology within the interim.