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From Hoverboards To The Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Why Batteries Are Exploding And How You Can Protect Yourself

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In what could be the most high-profile case of exploding batteries, Samsung has issued a worldwide recall of the Galaxy Note 7. The company will be replacing the Galaxy Note 7 units that have so far been purchased by customers.

There have been only 35 cases of an exploding Galaxy Note 7 battery, but Samsung wisely decided to launch the global recall to prevent further instances. The Samsung flagship smartphone is not the only device that has been reported to have an exploding battery though.

Does everyone remember the hoverboards that were all the rage in last year's holiday shopping season? Some models of the personal transportation device carried the risk of exploding batteries as well, with the U.S. government at one point declaring that hoverboards were unsafe.

Why Do Batteries Explode?

There are two reasons behind exploding lithium-ion batteries, which are the ones powering the Galaxy Note 7, hoverboards and most of the current consumer electronic devices out there. The first reason is a puncture, which could be caused by dropping the device to cause a break in the internals of the batteries, leading to a short circuit. Cheaper batteries also sometimes contain metallic particles that can cause a short circuit.

The second reason is heat, and this is the suspected reason for most of the cases of exploding batteries. When a lithium-ion battery is exposed to high amounts of heat, internal cells could break down, also leading to a short circuit.

If a battery is faulty, charging it up will lead to very high temperatures. Overcharging could also be an issue, because the batteries will be taking more current than they are designed to handle, causing them to overheat.

If there is too much heat in one part of the battery, a thermal runaway can occur. In such a case, that part of the battery could not cool down fast enough, leading to a chain reaction that will generate more heat to cause an explosion.

High-quality batteries contain safety features to prevent such instances from happening. In Samsung's case, some of the battery packs that it acquired from a certain provider may be faulty, and in the cases involving hoverboards, the batteries that they utilized are cheap ones that did not have such safeguards.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

Here are a few things to keep in mind to protect yourself and your loved ones from exploding lithium-ion batteries.

1. Use official chargers and cables that come with the devices. Third-party chargers and cables, while cheaper than the official accessories, could cause a device to receive the wrong amounts of voltage and current. This could lead to the battery receiving too much current than what they are capable of.

2. Stop charging if the device becomes very hot. This could mean that the battery is already overloaded or that the device was placed in a hot environment. Let the device cool down first and try charging again, but if it becomes too hot too quickly, it would be best to have the device checked.

3. Do not place charging devices underneath other objects. Placing a charging device underneath another object such as a pillow or a pile of clothes could lead to the heat being stored within the device and causing the battery to overheat. If you're using your charging device before going to sleep, make sure that you place it somewhere else, such as a bedside table so that you would not accidentally roll over it while sleeping.

Should You Worry?

Lithium-ion batteries store high amounts of energy within a very little space, which is why they are found in almost every consumer electronic device. Customers should not start to worry that all their devices could have exploding batteries though.

"It's not like we live in a world where people's smartphones spontaneously combust," said IDC mobile phones team research manager Ramon Llamas.

That said, it would still be a good idea to protect yourself from exploding batteries by preventing instances of overheating in devices. For Galaxy 7 owners, it would be a good idea to take up Samsung's recall as soon as possible, just to be safe.

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