It is an undisputed fact that phone explosions do occur. There have also been reports of phones up in smoke or flames and even starting fires, but it might surprise you to know that the likelihood of such incidents is slim. There is this video of a phone explosion that has been circulating on different social media platforms. It is accompanied by commentaries and sometimes by notes on safety measures and explanations regarding the science behind the explosion. A lot about it is hysteria.
In one of the messages, android phone batteries/cell and their chips were described as potential explosive devices with the magnitude of a bomb or grenade. The title of one of these warning messages is “What Makes an Android Phone Explode Like a Bomb and Kill”. This is terrifying, right?
It even gets more disturbing when it says a repeatedly overcharged phone will eventually explode and this explosion can cover a radius of 4 meters. It goes ahead to say that a cell phone is dangerous in a kitchen that contains a gas cylinder and in a filling station because once the phone is on, it is attracted to gas fumes and this is enough to ignite the cell and cause an explosion.
Well, well, well, now that we have talked about how scary mobile phone explosions can be, let’s see how much of this “science fiction”.
About overcharging, that was a problem faced with the advent of the cell phone up to about the ’90s. In response to this problem, newer batteries (lithium-ion batteries used in electronic devices) are coupled with internal circuits that control the state of charge. They maintain the battery at a constant voltage and cut off charge once the battery is fully charged thereby making it impossible to overcharge. The idea behind this circuitry is basic engineering.
Concerning using a cell phone around gas, it is said that electromagnetic fields produced by the phone during a call can ignite fuel in a filling station as they vaporise a lot. However, these claims have not been proven scientifically. Reports by the BBC and The Guardian in 2005 based on a study carried out by Dr. Adam Burgess state that these claims were unfounded and that there is no risk in using phones at the filling station. Richard Coates, British Petroleum’s fire safety officer, after
investigating several cases that were attributed to mobile phones said there was nothing to worry about according to The Guardian.
The recorded cases of phones that exploded were Samsung’s Galaxy S7. It was found out that one of the battery manufacturers, Samsung SDI, of the Galaxy S7 had made the batteries with not enough space between the heat-sealed protective pouch around the battery and its internals. In some of the worst cases, this weakened the separator between the electrodes and caused short-circuiting leading to an outrush of large amounts of current. Large currents thus cause overheating. With short circuits, the heat is usually excessive — enough to cause the battery to burn up or explode. This can cause serious burns and injury especially when in contact with the phone, but not enough to kill.
We hope this helped you to separate science from fiction. What you should be worried about is excessive heat. Avoid sleeping with your phone on the bed especially while it is charging. Avoid anything or doing anything that can heat up your phone fast like keeping your phone on hot surfaces, under the sun or in your pocket for long.
By Clifford Ebssiy M.