Lithium-based batteries have powered portable devices for a quarter of a century, but experts say consumer demand for small tech is pushing the material to its safety limits. Ryan Brooks explains how that may have fed into Samsung's current Note 7 crisis.
Samsung's explosive Note 7 crisis may point to a far wider threat in the world of technology... Lithium has been powering portable devices for 25 years... And while its not yet clear what initially caused certain Note 7s to blow up... some experts are pointing the finger at the phone's rechargeable lithium battery. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JEREMY WAGSTAFF, REUTERS TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT, SAYING: "As these devices get smaller, so the components get more pressed together, then of course there's the chance for an explosion. A lithium ion battery is three things. A positive electrode, a negative electrode, and then a separator in between. Now this separator is just a very thin foil and its got thinner over the years. If that separator is broken, the temperature very quickly increases and you have what is usually an explosion in the battery." As devices get smaller, but also strive to store MORE energy... the risk of detonation increases. In the words of one expert, a battery is basically a bomb that lets off energy in a controlled way... And safety levels can vary significantly. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LANCASTER UNIVERSITY, DIRECTOR OF ENERGY, PROFESSOR HARRY HOSTER,SAYING: "About 10 years ago Sony had similar issues with laptop batteries and now laptop batteries, these old cylindrical ones are the most advanced and use the safest technology which is also the reason why Tesla used them for their cars as the safest mass produced battery because the lessons were learnt from those incidents. I think the same will happen here." Consumer demand for thin, sleek devices used for hours on end... ... is pushing lithium to the limit. Experts say at the rate battery makers are going- Even the most complex new devices may never be completely safe.