It’s a really scary and awful thing to have your phone explode.

Just imagine the betrayal that comes from something that is basically your best friend that you take everywhere (even to the bathroom) and do everything with, hurt you in that way and leave you so suddenly.

Picture credit: Nepal Buzz

And don’t even get us started on how much your phone probably cost you and how much you’d have to spend to replace it.

A Twitter user shared his experience of the time when his brother’s phone suddenly exploded.

@wanhaikal56 mentions that his brother was not charging or using his phone during the incident.

The phone was not in his brother’s bag or pocket, but was being held in his brother’s hand when it started to heat up. 

The phone then began to smoke before igniting and eventually exploding.

@wanhaikal56 tweeted that his brother informed him that he had his phone’s battery changed 2 months prior to the incident.

Smartphones don’t explode every day, but the phenomenon isn’t as rare as you think. Especially now that most phones and other electronic gadgets use lithium-ion batteries.

Earlier this year, Sin Chew Daily reported that a 21-year-old man in Sarawak suffered severe burns on his chest.

He had fallen asleep with his smartphone on his chest while it charged and woke up to excruciating pain as it had suddenly exploded on top of him.

Picture credit: Sin Chew Daily

Meanwhile, last year, Harian Metro reported that a 24-year-old woman in Shah Alam suffered severe burns on her arm.

She had gone to sleep with her phone charging next to her on the bed. Several hours later, she woke up to a piercing hot pain on her arm and realised that smoke was emitting from her phone.

Picture credit: Harian Metro

Lithium-ion batteries are generally very safe, however accidents happen and they can occasionally catch fire or explode.

What’s inside a lithium-ion battery?

To better understand how lithium-ion batteries fail, you must first understand what’s going on inside them.

Picture credit: AZoM

In every lithium-ion battery, there are two electrodes—the positively charged cathode and the negatively charged anode—separated by a thin sheet of “microperferated” plastic. 

When the battery is charging, lithium ions are pushed by electricity from the cathode, through the microperferations in the separating plastic, to the anode.

Meanwhile, when the battery is being used, the reverse happens. The lithium ions flow from the anode toward the cathode. This is the reaction that powers your phone, laptop, etc.

Then, why do they explode?

Most lithium-ion battery fires and explosions are a result of short circuiting – when the anode and cathode come into contact because the plastic separator fails.

When that happens, the battery will start to overheat. Whether it’s charging, or not.

So, what can cause the separator to fail? 

Several things can result in the separator failing.

1. Bad design/manufacturing defect.

If the battery is too small/slim, there may not be enough space for the electrodes and separator.

Sometimes, some batteries expand a little as they charge, this can result in the electrodes getting bent and short circuiting.

2. External factors.

Extreme heat is one guaranteed way to cause a failure (try to avoid leaving your phone in your car while it’s parked outside in this hot Malaysian weather).

Dropping your phone too hard (or too many times) can also damage the separator, which in turn leads to the electrodes touching.

Picture credit: The Techy Hub

Finally, piercing your battery (on purpose or by accident) will also definitely cause a short circuit.

3. Charger problems

A badly made or poorly insulated charger can also damage a lithium-ion battery.

If the charger short circuits or overheats near the battery, it can damage the battery enough to cause it to explode. 

Picture credit: The Funny Beaver

Lithium-ion batteries normally have built in protections to stop them from overcharging. But sometimes these safety precautions can fail and overcharging can definitely overheat a battery.

So, now that you know the reasons, make sure to take care of your phone and its battery.

Don’t leave it out in a hot car, or expose it to heat. Be careful of dropping your phone. And always use a SIRIM approved charger! (No, this isn’t a SIRIM ad).

Otherwise, you risk losing your precious smartphone, and a tonne of money.

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(Why Do Lithium-Ion Batteries Explode?)

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