Virginia Tech Professor Develops Fireproof Battery in Aftermath of Samsung Smartphone Setbacks
Image: Samsung

Virginia Tech Professor Develops Fireproof Battery in Aftermath of Samsung Smartphone Setbacks

The idea is to use a safer solvent in lithium ion batteries

October 17, 2016

In the wake of a ban instituted by several government agencies on carrying a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone onto an airplane, the company may be glad to find out that a professor at Virginia Tech may have found a fix.

The Note 7 had been lauded as one of the best new smartphones before it was recalled due to a serious risk of catching fire and/or exploding. After the replacement phones experienced the same problem, Samsung halted production of the device completely and is now offering financial incentives to affected customers who want a refund or to exchange their device.

The problem seems to lie in the smartphone's lithium ion battery, which can apparently overheat to the point of actually igniting. Virginia Tech Chemistry Professor Louis Madsen has been studying overheating batteries for five years and has developed a solution to the problem, one that he believes would make all smartphones resistant to fire.

"Lithium has to transport across this battery and it actually moves through a liquid that's a flammable solvent," he said. "If it gets too hot then it can boil, so some people may have seen batteries actually inflate if you overcharge them, I've seen a few of these. And then in the worst case, they can smoke or be heated up and start on fire."

Madsen stated that his solution is relatively simple, though it may increase the cost to produce the batteries. Simply replace the current flammable liquid solvent with a gel that will not burn. He has, he said, been developing such a substance that he hopes will result in a safer lithium battery.

Madsen believes that the engineers at Samsung pushed the Note 7's battery too far in attempting to produce too much power to run more functions. This is problematic, he said, because doing so may produce heat, and the current liquid solvent in the batteries can ignite at a temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The gel he is developing, he said, can allegedly withstand temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.