Sony’s plan to make your phone battery last 40% longer
‘Hoverboard’ Scooter Fires: Faulty Batteries May Be to Blame.
Lithium-ion batteries (sometimes called Li-ion) have been powering our phones and laptops for so long, it’s easy to forget that other — potentially more promising — battery technologies exist. Self-balancing “hoverboard” scooters, once lauded as trendy electronic skateboards, are now the subject of an ongoing safety investigation in the United States.With each passing year, companies like Apple and Samsung manage to make smartphones faster while also packing them with increasingly advanced features.
Sony, which played a key part in popularizing Li-ion batteries in the 1990s, is working on new, sulfur-based batteries, which could offer up to 40% better energy density per volume, Nikkei reports. But Sony has announced that it’s working on a new kind of lithium and sulfur energy storage that will provide 40 percent more life for a given battery volume, and should be ready as soon as 2020. Some online retailers are pulling certain brands off their virtual shelves following several incidents in which the futuristic devices caught fire or exploded. But it’s likely not the boards themselves that are causing these flare-ups, but rather their energy sources: shoddily made lithium-ion batteries, experts say. While smartphone manufacturers could theoretically equip their devices with bigger batteries, many of them are seemingly to obsessed with delivering hyper-thin form factors.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has seized 164 hoverboards that had fake batteries or other counterfeit signs, according to a statement from the agency. [9 Odd Ways Your Tech Device May Injure You] Lithium-ion batteries, first commercialized by Sony Corporation in 1991, give power to countless electronics, including cellphones, laptops, power tools and children’s toys. But Sony developed a way to contain the metal, said Lloyd Gordon, the chief electrical safety officer at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
But, in essence, scientists have developed ways to ensure that the ions will flow from the anode end of the battery, through an electrolyte fluid and then reach the cathode, releasing energy as this occurs. The battery cell containing these elements usually isn’t a problem, but the electronic circuitry surrounding the cell can cause glitches if the battery isn’t properly made, Gordon said. For example, a laptop might have 12 lithium-ion cells, “and there’s a little computer in the battery — it’s called a smart battery — that’s actually watching over and taking care of each cell,” Gordon said. “If one cell begins to go bad, it makes the battery stop working.” If a faulty lithium-ion battery is overcharged or overheats — possibly while a person is using it in a hoverboard or has it plugged into a charger — the ions can gather in one spot and be deposited as metallic lithium within the battery. Meanwhile, the heat can cause oxygen bubbles within the gel. “Remember that oxygen and lithium don’t get along?” Gordon said. “Once the oxygen bubbles reach that lithium metal, it goes into an extremely hot reaction, like a sparkler on the Fourth of July.
Chiefly, previous experiments with lithium-sulfur batteries resulted in the sulfur degrading rather quickly, making its use in commercial batteries a non-starter. So can using the wrong charger, which means users should be careful to only use chargers made specifically for the device, and not to overcharge the board if the device doesn’t stop charging on its own, Gordon said. That said, with Sony now providing us with a 5-year development window, it stands to reason that they’re confident that they can develop around this limitation.
Instead, people can use chemical-based fire extinguishers and call 911 to put out the flames. “Lithium fires are very dangerous, and we’ve had some catastrophic lithium fires, especially in the years [during the] development of lithium [batteries],” Gordon said. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is investigating at least 11 reports of hoverboard-related fires in 10 states from that past year, according to USA Today.
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