Last year, Samsung Galaxy Note 7 made headlines for all the wrong reasons. The device’s battery was on fire – literally. While Samsung hasn’t released its investigation report on why the battery exploded, it is believed to have happened due to the battery’s size and manufacturing issues.
Samsung used lithium-Ion battery for the Galaxy Note 7. And one of the major problems with li-ion battery is that it tends to explode if heated. We have seen many devices catch fire due to this problem.
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A Li-Ion battery consists of two types of electrodes, a positive one, and a negative one. The charged particles from one electrode are sent to another electrode via an electrolyte. And issues like short-circuiting or overcharging can create heat that can go up to 150°C. This results in electrolyte catching fire that in turn creates an explosion.
So, to solve this issue, researchers from Stanford University, USA, have designed lithium-ion batteries that feature a built-in fire extinguisher to prevent the battery from catching fire. They simply added a compound called triphenyl phosphate (TPP), a component used as a flame retardant in different electronic devices.
So what exactly can TPP do in a lithium-ion battery? When the electrolyte’s temperature reaches 150°C, a plastic fiber separating the electrolyte and TPP melts, releasing the chemical that in turn puts out the flame that has generated.
Since the chemical has a capacity to affect any device’s performance when it comes in contact with the electrolyte, the researcher used the plastic fiber separator.
Yi Cui, the project’s lead scientist, said, “Using our ‘smart’ separators, battery electrochemical performance will not be affected by the flame retardant under normal conditions. However, once there is a potential thermal runaway, the flame retardant will be activated and nip the fire or explosion in the bud.”
The researchers have claimed that the fire retardant can stop the electrolyte from burning up in just 0.4 seconds.