Scientists at Cambridge University have revealed the cause of many cases of spontaneous battery fire worldwide, after studying the processes that take place inside the lithium ion batteries.
The researchers found that the batteries form dentrite, a layer of tiny metallic fibres on the carbon anodes, as a result of their frequent charging and discharging.
It is this layer of dentrite that, over time, can cause short-circuits, leading to the flammable lithium batteries overheating and eventually catching fire.
The team of Cambridge scientists used Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) imaging to identify the changes that take place in the batteries' makeup. They say that they hope the findings of their study into the behaviour of lithium batteries under different conditions may potentially lead to the development of less volatile carbon anodes.
Lithium batteries are widely used in electronic devices such as laptops and mobile phones, and are an important component in the development of the next generation of electric cars.