Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Battery Failure Theories

Last week, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued an advisory warning that every Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phone should be shut down and not used at all based on the number of battery failures that have occurred. The batteries in the Note 7 phones have been catching fire, causing property damage and physical injuries to the phone users. Over 100 cases of Note 7’s catching fire have been reported, prompting Samsung to recall every Note 7 phone until the battery overheating problem has been resolved. Samsung is offering phone owners a full refund for their phone and has been working with carriers to get phones returned as quickly as possible. The cause of the Note 7 phone’s battery fires is unknown at this point, however battery fires are not uncommon in any area of electronics. Fires in batteries can be the result of manufacturing errors, however more often than not, fires can occur when the internal circuitry of the battery shorts together, releasing the stored energy in the battery very quickly which results in a dramatic increase in battery temperature and fire. Batteries are constructed of a series of thin layers separated by an insulating layer. If the insulating layer is damaged, the thin layers can come into contact with each other, short circuiting the battery and causing a fire. Another common cause for battery failure is a chemical reaction that produces small, sharp “dendrites” on the surface of the conducting layers of the battery. The ionized dendrites can actually pierce through the insulating layer of the battery much like little sharp blades and short circuit the cells. Yet another theory points the finger back at Samsung, for an improper charge detection circuit on the phone itself. Researchers into the battery failure have posed the suggestion that the Note 7’s phone circuitry does not properly detect when the battery is fully charged and overcharges the battery cells. If the battery is consistently overcharged, the battery structure can break down and again, short circuit the battery. The CPSC is officially looking into the cause of the failures. An estimated date as to when the investigation will yield an answer is unknown, however previous investigations into battery fires has taken over six months to complete. Samsung is investigating manufacturing of the Note 7 batteries also. -from CNet

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Joe Tremblay

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