The Next Generation of Lithium Batteries That Don’t Catch Fire



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Airing date: 03/21/2017

The Next Generation of Lithium Batteries That Don’t Catch Fire


Craig Peterson: Hey you had to have heard the story about the woman whose headphones caught fire on a flight from China to Australia. She was asleep and it caught fire and it burned the side of her face. There’s some burn marks, a blister and apparently the thing melted into the floor of the aircraft. This of course you flung it off. They started pouring water on it. But lithium-ion batteries, they don’t react extremely well to fires. It’s like putting out a fire that’s burning wood. So we’re going to tech about batteries here. A little TechSanity check. And it looks like the inventor of the lithium-ion battery, who is now in his nineties, may have been struck by lightning twice. This is really cool. Stick around here. A little TechSanity check with Craig Peterson.


Alright, we got a daily TechSanity check edition here. This is really incredible. If you’ve seen the articles, I shared one earlier in the week. It’s kind of scary to look at this poor lady’s side of her face here because it really, really was dangerous, frankly. She is asleep at her airplane seat, right? And she has a pair of battery-powered headphones. So they caught fire about 2 hours into a flight between Beijing and Melbourne, of course, Australia. And it blackened and blistered her face and hands. You should see the picture if you haven’t. It’s just terrible. We got to link to some articles here on it, right here in the podcast itself. She was sleeping. She was listening to music, which is what I do when I’m on an airplane. About 2 hours into the trip. And she says as I went to turn around I felt burning on my face. I just grabbed my face, which caused the headphones to go around my neck, she said. So she tore the headphones off. She threw them to the floor. And apparently they were shooting off sparks and small flames. “As I went to stamp my foot on them, the flight attendants were already there with a bucket of water to pour on them. They put them into the bucket at the rear of the plane.” she said. They couldn’t remove all of the headphones, however. Both the battery and the cover had melted into the aircraft floor. So that’s one hot battery, right? People were coughing and choking the entire way home, this lady said. If it’s seen the device was damaged, then that would explain it. But you know if it was a genuine battery and hadn’t been abused then we’ll go to the manufacture and see what’s going on.

So batteries have been known to cause plane fires. It’s happened before. February 19th, in fact, there was a fire aboard an airplane. And it burned passengers’ skin here. This time, only a day before the incident, Airbus A320 that took off from China, reportedly Lee had to make an emergency landing in Japan after a portable power pack started a fire inside an overhead locker. So in both cases it looks like lithium batteries were the cause of the fires on board the airplanes. Now you know that travelers have to have, if you have a lithium-ion battery, you have to have it with you in your carry-on luggage. And if you have any spare batteries they have to be in a separate plastic bag. You have to have it in the cabin because if it’s in the downstairs there in the airplane, if it’s in the hold and it shorts out, it will smolder away. And by the time you it is detected by the fire alarms it’s a huge, huge problem. If it’s upstairs then the crew’s going to be able to react very quickly and take care of the problem.

So it’s obviously a problem. A very big problem. And this poor woman suffered some serious problems here. Some serious burns and it’s scary. Now I went to Google and did a little search here in Google News to try and find out a little bit more about this and maybe some other articles that are out there. And I found a few things here. First of all, I love this one, right? This is kind of like an old joke. A lawyer’s pants caught on fire when he was participating here in a Florida arson trial. And apparently his pants caught on fire because of the electric cigarette batteries he had in his pocket. Here’s another one. This is just, just reported one in fact. This is on, which is a site that has bunch of local news and people are trying to put these little stories in from Washington. This is on Thursday. A man’s cell phone caught on fire in his pants while he was shopping at Costco. He said he saw smoke, came around the corner to find the man wearing no pants and standing next to the burned phone. Of course in Costco they got concrete floors so throwing it on the sounds like a good idea. Employees came to the man’s aid, spraying the phone with the fire extinguisher. It doesn’t say what they did about his pants. It’s unclear what caused the phone to catch fire but problems with lithium-ion batteries would cause devices to spontaneously burst into flames. So they you go.

Here’s another article just from a few days ago. Apple 7 caught fire on video. This is from February 24th here and it’s not uncommon for these types of things to happen. But in this case, an Apple iPhone 7, which are not know to catch fire very often. And this owner got a wake-up call when her smartphone turned out to be on fire. You know that’s a real problem isn’t it? So, a video posted on Twitter on Wednesday showed that Brianna Olivas, an 18 year old college student in Tucson, had a rose gold iPhone in a clear melted plastic casing sitting on a bathroom basin and billowing smoke. I was so shocked because I didn’t know how this could have happened. Apple apparently looking into this. And of course we know everyone knows about the problem with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7. We know about the problems with hoverboards and we’re still having problems with these.


Here’s another one. An article in PennLive, What do you do if your hoverboard has had a fire? How do you know if it’s safe anymore? Well if that a fire it ain’t safe, okay? And this is out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. A deadly house fire was blamed on charging a hoverboard and the feds have gotten involved here. I’m looking at the picture of the fire. Just horrific here. This was a… article came out March 14th this year. The fire left a toddler dead. Two others injured and saw a responding firefighter killed in a car crash on the way to the scene. Of course we’ve had more than a year of recalls on hoverboards. We’ve had warnings about fires. Warnings about these toys. You know, they’re cool. They’re little self-propelled scooters, kind of built into a skateboard almost type thing. And there are some good ones out there. But the problem appears to be the battery. There’s no question about it. Look at what the maker of the Galaxy Tab 7 said. Samsung blamed it squarely on the batteries. Now Samsung was making batteries, okay, but they blamed it on the batteries. It’s the batteries that are catching fire and it is happened to pretty much every device out there. It just doesn’t happen very often to some devices. And I know myself when I’m looking at batteries, I go for the Japanese cells. I don’t trust most of the Chinese cells that are that are in these various batteries that are out there.

So it’s a real problem. People have died. Fires have started. However, this is totally, totally, totally cool. I’ve seen a couple of articles about this out there and I’m going to include this in my podcast link. So if you click on your podcast player there’s a little button that will let you see the notes. It’ll be in there. John Goodenough is this guy’s name. He’s 94 years old now. He’s co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery. Now this battery was amazing because it allowed multiple charges. Remember we had the nickel cadmium and then the nickel metal hydride and then out came lithium-ion. And it was leaps and bounds better than the previous generation batteries. It could hold much more charge, much more… but you’re holding all that power in there. And the problem is if there’s a short in the battery, and that’s usually what causes this. The battery heats up or it catches fire.

Well, it looks like lightning might have struck twice with this guy because he published a battery design called the lithium glass battery. This is a solid cell that is absolutely amazing. This new technology triples the energy density of the lithium-ion. It holds three times as much power in the same amount of space. It fully recharges in the minutes instead of hours. It can be recharged thousands of charging cycles whereas current good lithium batteries are maybe, maybe most of these about a hundred full cycles and 1000 if you’re absolutely like… I’ve never seen it like that. But at about a hundred the lithium-ion battery start to slow down. They’re not as good. And you may get 2 or 3 hundred good uses out of them. So this new battery can be charged thousands of cycles. Operates from -4 Fahrenheit to a 140 Fahrenheit. Huge range of temperatures. And it won’t catch fire.

So this guy’s a professor engineering at the University of Texas. He’s a 94 years old. And he thinks they could reliably replace lithium with sodium. And sodium of course is everywhere. It’s in everything from underground mines of salt to ocean water, right? The same stuff. And the real key to this battery is the solid glass electrode. Now you think of glass as an insulator, not as a conductor right? But this glass electrode sits between the negative anode and the positive cathode and helps the chemical reaction that produces electricity. It’s just amazing. Now this glass electrode is kind of fancy. It’s got a bunch of different stuff in it. Precise mixture. It’s got some lithium or sodium with barium and oxygen and chlorine. But what it what it does it it’s preventing these little dendrites from forming on the anodes. Those, the dendrites, are like stalactites, stalagmites, right? And when you charge the lithium-ion batteries quickly these things form and often times they cause the short circuits that plagued so many lithium-ion batteries. It’s really, really cool.

So they’re working here on being able to produce these on a commercial scale. When they do Katy-bar-the-door this is going to help everything. Absolutely everything. Because now they could use them in cars. Think of that. Think of triple the range for a Tesla. So instead 300 miles, were talking about 900 miles. Ok? Think about your cell phone. You charge it every week instead of every couple of days. Phenomenal. Phenomenal. So congratulations to John Goodenough. The 94 year old professor who has developed the next generation battery and who gave us the last incredible battery that we have out there, the lithium-ion. Phenomenal. Phenomenal news.

Alright. We’ll be back tomorrow. If you haven’t already sent me an e-mail, I’ve made an offer here. If you could sit down with me, one-to-one personal like, and ask me any question that you’d like to ask. Whether it be about how I can make my life’s more secure. How I can hack my life, make it better using technology? Or hack my business to make it better? Or secure my business so that I have something to retire with and the bad guys haven’t stolen everything. If you have two questions that you would ask me, if you and I were sitting down to have a cup of coffee, what would those be? Just email me. Just Look at those answered. We’re only doing this for a couple weeks. We’ll see how this goes but I started last Friday and we’ve had a great response. So get yours in early and I guess you could do often too and we will get those questions answered. And it’s going to help set the direction here for the show as we go forward. What type of things am I going to be working on? I want to keep you guys interested. Again me, Send that email to me right now with your two questions. Take care. Have a great day. We’ll talk more tomorrow. Bye-bye.

Show Notes:

Is our battery problem finally solved? Inventor of Lithium-Ion batteries invents a safer battery that holds 3x more power.

We’ll talk about this and more today on TechSanity Check!

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