Samsung’s massive global recall from the lithium ion battery manufacturer has yet again focused attention on the hazards of lithium ion batteries-specifically, the hazards of lithium ion batteries exploding. Samsung first announced the recall on Sept. 2, and merely every week later it took the extraordinary step of asking customers to instantly power down the phones and exchange them for replacements. The Government Aviation Administration issued a powerful advisory asking passengers to not utilize the Note 7 as well as stow it in checked baggage. Airlines around the world hastened to ban in-flight use and charging from the device.
Lithium rechargeable batteries are ubiquitous and, thankfully, the vast majority work all right. They are industry’s favored source of energy for wireless applications due to their extended run times. They are utilised in everything from power tools to e-cigarettes to Apple’s new wireless earbuds. And most of the time, consumers bring them for granted. In such a way, this battery is definitely the ultimate technological black box. Many are bundled into applications and so are not generally designed for retail sale. Accordingly, the technology is largely out from sight and out of mind, plus it does not receive the credit it deserves for an enabler in the mobile computing revolution. Indeed, the lithium rechargeable battery is as vital as the miniaturized microprocessor in this connection. It may one day alter the face of automobile transport as being a power source for electric vehicles.
It is therefore impossible to imagine modern life without lithium ion power. But society is taking a calculated risk in proliferating it. Scientists, engineers, and corporate planners long ago created a Faustian bargain with chemistry whenever they created this technology, whose origins date to the mid-1970s. Some variants use highly energetic but very volatile materials that require carefully engineered control systems. Generally, these systems function as intended. Sometimes, though, the lithium genie gets out of the bottle, with potentially catastrophic consequences.
This takes place more frequently than it might seem. Ever since the late 1990s and early 2000s, there has been a drum roll of product safety warnings and recalls of 12v lithium battery which may have burned or blown up practically every sort 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 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 regarding the nature of innovation in the postindustrial era, the one that highlights the unintended consequences in the information technology revolution and globalization throughout the last thirty years.
In simple terms, the visible difference from a handy lithium battery along with an incendiary one can be boiled down to three things: how industry manufactures these devices, the way integrates them into the applications they power, and how users treat their battery-containing appliances. Each time a lithium rechargeable discharges, lithium ions layered on the negative electrode or anode (typically made from graphite) lose electrons, which get into an external circuit to complete useful work. The ions then migrate through a conductive material generally known as an electrolyte (usually an organic solvent) and be lodged in spaces inside the positive electrode or cathode, a layered oxide structure.
There are a variety of lithium battery chemistries, and a few tend to be more stable than the others. Some, like lithium cobalt oxide, a typical formula in consumer electronics, are very flammable. When such variants do ignite, the result can be a blaze that can be hard to extinguish because of the battery’s self-contained supply of oxidant.
To ensure that such tetchy mixtures remain in order, battery manufacturing requires exacting quality control. Sony learned this lesson when it pioneered lithium rechargeable battery technology in the late 1980s. At the beginning, the chemical process the company utilized to make the cathode material (lithium cobalt oxide) produced an incredibly fine powder, the granules that experienced a high surface area. That increased the risk of fire, so Sony needed to invent a procedure to coarsen the particles.
One more complication is the fact lithium ion batteries have lots of failure modes. Recharging too fast or excessive can cause lithium ions to plate out unevenly in the anode, creating growths called dendrites which could bridge the electrodes and produce a short circuit. Short circuits will also be induced by physically damaging battery power, or improperly disposing of it, or perhaps putting it into a pocket containing metal coins. Heat, whether internal or ambient, may cause the flammable electrolyte to generate gases that 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 designed with numerous safety features, including current interrupters and gas vent mechanisms. The most basic such feature will be the separator, a polymer membrane that prevents the electrodes from contacting the other person and making a short circuit that could direct energy in the electrolyte. Separators also inhibit dendrites, while offering minimal effectiveness against ionic transport. To put it briefly, the separator will be the last collection 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 issues with separators. Samsung officials did actually hint that this might be the way it is once they established that a manufacturing flaw had led the negative and positive electrodes to get hold of the other person. Whether the separator is definitely in the wrong is not yet known.
At any rate, it is revealing that for Samsung, the problem is entirely the battery, not the smartphone. The implication is the fact that higher quality control will solve the issue. Without doubt it could help. Although the manufacturing of commodity electronics is way too complex because there being a fairly easy solution here. There is definitely an organizational, cultural, and intellectual gulf between those that create batteries and those who create electronics, inhibiting manufacturers from thinking of applications and batteries as holistic systems. This estrangement continues to be further accentuated with the offshoring and outsourcing of industrial research, development, and manufacturing, a consequence of the competitive pressures of globalization.
The result has become a protracted consumer product safety crisis. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, notebook designers introduced faster processors that generated more heat and required more power. The most basic and cheapest way for designers of lithium cells to meet this demand was to thin out separators to make room to get more reactive material, creating thermal management problems and narrowed margins of safety.
Economic pressures further eroded these margins. In the 1990s, the rechargeable lithium battery sector became a highly competitive, low-margin industry dominated by a few firms based mainly in Japan. From around 2000, these firms started to move manufacturing to South Korea and China in operations initially plagued by extensive bugs and cell scrap rates.
Every one of these factors played a role in the notebook battery fire crisis of 2006. Numerous incidents prompted the most important recalls in consumer electronics history to that date, involving some 9.6 million batteries manufactured by Sony. The corporation ascribed the situation to faulty manufacturing that had contaminated cells with microscopic shards of metal. Establishing quality control might be a tall order given that original equipment manufacturers disperse supply chains and outsource production.
Additional problems is makers of applications like notebooks and smartphones may not necessarily realize how to properly integrate outsourced lithium cells into safe battery packs and applications. Sony hinted as much throughout the 2006 crisis. While admitting its quality control woes, the business suggested that some notebook manufacturers were improperly charging its batteries, noting that battery configuration, thermal management, and charging protocols varied across the industry.
My analysis of United states Consumer Product Safety Commission recalls during that time (to become published in Technology & Culture in January 2017) shows that there could have been some truth to the. Nearly 50 % of the recalled batteries (4.2 million) in 2006 were for notebooks created by Dell, a business whose enterprise model was based upon 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 a huge selection of incidents of catastrophic battery failures dating to 2002. On the other hand, relatively few reported incidents during those times involved Sony batteries in Sony computers.
In a sense, then, the lithium ion battery fires are largely a results of how we have structured society. We still don’t have uniform safety protocols for a multitude of problems in relation to 3.7v 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 seek greater convenience, and profit, in electronics and electric automobiles. The pursuit of more power and better voltage is straining the physical limits of lithium ion batteries, there are few technologies less forgiving of the chaotically single-minded method by which people are increasingly making their way on earth. Scientists are working on safer alternatives, but we should expect a lot more unpleasant surprises from your existing technology within the interim.