Samsung’s massive global recall of the lithium ion battery manufacturer has yet again focused attention about the hazards of lithium ion batteries-specifically, the health risks of lithium ion batteries exploding. Samsung first announced the recall on Sept. 2, and only every week later it took the extraordinary step of asking customers to immediately power across the phones and exchange them for replacements. The Government Aviation Administration issued a solid advisory asking passengers never to utilize the Note 7 and even stow it in checked baggage. Airlines worldwide hastened to ban in-flight use and charging in the device.
Lithium rechargeable batteries are ubiquitous and, thankfully, the vast majority work perfectly. They are industry’s favored power source for wireless applications because of their lengthy run times. They are used in everything from power tools to e-cigarettes to Apple’s new wireless earbuds. And most of the time, consumers take them for granted. In many ways, this battery will be the ultimate technological black box. Nearly all are bundled into applications and are not generally available for retail sale. Accordingly, the technology is essentially away from sight and away from mind, and it also is not going to have the credit it deserves as an enabler of the mobile computing revolution. Indeed, the lithium rechargeable battery is as essential as the miniaturized microprocessor in this regard. It could 1 day modify the face of automobile transport as being a power source for electric vehicles.
Therefore it is impossible to visualize modern life without lithium ion power. But society is taking a calculated risk in proliferating it. Scientists, engineers, and corporate planners long ago produced a Faustian bargain with chemistry whenever 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 of the bottle, with potentially catastrophic consequences.
This takes place with greater frequency than it might seem. Since the late 1990s and early 2000s, we have seen a drum roll of product safety warnings and recalls of energy power battery that have burned or blown up practically every type 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 a minimum of one 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.
So the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco is not only a narrative of how Samsung botched the rollout from the latest weapon within the smartphone wars. It’s a tale regarding the nature of innovation in the postindustrial era, the one that highlights the unintended consequences of your i . t . revolution and globalization over the last 30 years.
Basically, the visible difference from a handy lithium battery as well as an incendiary one could be boiled down to three things: how industry manufactures these devices, the way integrates them in to the applications they power, and the way users treat their battery-containing appliances. Every time a lithium rechargeable discharges, lithium ions layered on the negative electrode or anode (typically created from graphite) lose electrons, which enter into another circuit to perform useful work. The ions then migrate through a conductive material known as an electrolyte (usually an organic solvent) and be lodged in spaces from the positive electrode or cathode, a layered oxide structure.
There are a variety of lithium battery chemistries, plus some tend to be more stable than the others. Some, like lithium cobalt oxide, a common formula in consumer electronics, are very flammable. When such variants do ignite, the result is really a blaze that can be difficult to extinguish because of the battery’s self-contained supply of oxidant.
To make certain that such tetchy mixtures remain in check, battery manufacturing requires exacting quality control. Sony learned this lesson when it pioneered lithium rechargeable battery technology in the late 1980s. In the beginning, the chemical process the corporation utilized to make the cathode material (lithium cobalt oxide) produced an extremely fine powder, the granules of which had a high surface area. That increased the chance of fire, so Sony was required to invent a procedure to coarsen the particles.
One more complication is that lithium ion batteries have many failure modes. Recharging too fast or a lot of could cause lithium ions to plate out unevenly in the anode, creating growths called dendrites which could 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 simply putting it in a pocket containing metal coins. Heat, whether internal or ambient, can cause the flammable electrolyte to generate gases which may react uncontrollably along with other battery materials. This is called thermal runaway which is virtually impossible to quit once initiated.
So lithium ion batteries must be built with numerous safety features, including current interrupters and gas vent mechanisms. The standard such feature is definitely the separator, a polymer membrane that prevents the electrodes from contacting one another and building a short circuit that would direct energy into the electrolyte. Separators also inhibit dendrites, while offering minimal resistance to ionic transport. In short, the separator is definitely the last type of defense against thermal runaway. Some larger multicell batteries, including the types employed in electric vehicles, isolate individual cells to contain failures and employ elaborate and costly cooling and thermal management systems.
Some authorities ascribe Samsung’s battery crisis to difficulties with separators. Samsung officials appeared to hint that this can be the truth once they indicated that a manufacturing flaw had led the negative and positive electrodes to make contact with each other. Whether or not the separator is definitely at fault is not really yet known.
At any rate, it is revealing that for Samsung, the catch is entirely battery, not the smartphone. The implication is that better quality control will solve the situation. Without doubt it will help. Although the manufacturing of commodity electronics is simply too complex because there to be a straightforward solution here. There has been an organizational, cultural, and intellectual gulf between people who create batteries and people who create electronics, inhibiting manufacturers from thinking of applications and batteries as holistic systems. This estrangement continues to be further accentuated from the offshoring and outsourcing of industrial research, development, and manufacturing, a results of the competitive pressures of globalization.
The outcome 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 simplest and cheapest method for designers of lithium cells in order to meet this demand ended up being to thin out separators to produce room for further reactive material, creating thermal management problems and narrowed margins of safety.
Economic pressures further eroded these margins. Throughout the 1990s, the rechargeable lithium battery sector became a highly competitive, low-margin industry covered with a couple of firms based mainly in Japan. From around 2000, these companies started to move manufacturing to South Korea and China in operations initially plagued by extensive bugs and cell scrap rates.
Many of these factors played a role within the notebook battery fire crisis of 2006. Numerous incidents prompted the greatest recalls in consumer electronics history to that particular date, involving some 9.6 million batteries created by Sony. The corporation ascribed the issue to faulty manufacturing that had contaminated cells with microscopic shards of metal. Establishing quality control will certainly be a tall order so long as original equipment manufacturers disperse supply chains and outsource production.
One other issue is the fact makers of applications like notebooks and smartphones may not necessarily know 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 over the industry.
My analysis of U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalls in those days (to become published in Technology & Culture in January 2017) implies that there may have been some truth to the. Nearly half of the recalled batteries (4.2 million) in 2006 were for notebooks created by Dell, a firm whose enterprise model was based on integrating cheap outsourced parts and minimizing in-house R&D costs. In August 2006, the newest York Times cited a former Dell employee who claimed the 02dexspky had suppressed hundreds 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 the way you have structured our 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 pursuit of more power and higher voltage is straining the physical limits of lithium ion batteries, and then there are few technologies less forgiving in the chaotically single-minded way in which humankind are increasingly making their way worldwide. Scientists are operating on safer alternatives, but we ought to expect much more unpleasant surprises from your existing technology inside the interim.