Skip to main content

Researches develop fireproof battery to fix exploding phone problem

Even though smartphone hardware has been iterated enough for the past handful years to the point of near-perfection, the devices are still largely held back by battery inefficiencies — namely that they don't last as long as powerful features require. An infrequent, though still occurring battery issue, is one you frequently see blown out of proportion across the Internet: the exploding phone battery.

Even though it rarely happens, it's still something worth trying to prevent. Now, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have created a non-flammable lithium-ion battery.

The only truly flammable component of a standard lithium-ion battery is the electrolyte, an organic solvent combined with lithium salts. The Chapel Hill researchers, led by chemist Joseph DeSimone, figured out that replacing the organic solvent with the fluoride polymer perfluoropolyether (PFPE) wouldn't prevent a normal reaction, but would cut the risk of flammability down to almost none at all.

Interestingly, while studying PFPE for the Office of Naval Research for use as a material that to prevent marine life from sticking to the bottom of ships, DeSimone discovered that it has a chemical structure similar to electrolytes used in lithium-ion batteries. PFPE has also been used as a lubricant for large machinery and gears.

The research team is experimenting with extending the conductivity as well as improving battery cycling. The type of battery can also withstand extremely cold environments, so if the experiments succeed, their reach could extend into oceanic or aeronautical endeavours. For now, though, we're stuck with our lithium-ion batteries that slowly lose charge over time, and occasionally explode in someone's back pocket.

To get the most out of your battery, here's our top tips to conserving Android smartphone battery life.