Lithium-Ion Batteries: Confirmed Fire Hazards

closeThis post was published 13 years 4 months 28 days ago. A number of changes have been made to the site since then, so please contact me if anything is broken or seems wrong.

In recent years there has been a string of highly-publicized cases where various types of Li-Ion batteries catch fire. Be they installed in laptops, cellphones, or, now, iPods, Lithium Ion battery technology has, I think, established itself as a definite consumer hazard. PC World has a humorously titled article (“Hot Tunes: Man Says Nano iPod Caught Fire in His Pocket“) that shares the hazard of the newest of the three device types: the iPod.

A man playing an iPod Nano in his pocket had it catch fire on him, setting his pants aflame and sending orange streams of plasma (flames for you laypeople) up to the level of his chest. He says if the TSA had seen him smoking like he was, they would have thought him a terrorist (he was in the Atlanta International Airport at the time, where he works). Apple reportedly sent him a packet with which to return the two-year-old device. The cause of the fire is unconfirmed, but the battery is a likely suspect.

Now, Gateway hasn’t been involved in any laptop battery recalls that I know of, but having a potential explosion on my lap doesn’t bring much comfort. Untold millions of batteries have been manufactured, and I carry one in my pocket nearly every day (PDA), as do both my parents (cellphones). It makes me wonder how safe the technology really is.

We’ve also been awaiting new battery technology for many years now. Given the rigorous safety testing batteries go through, it’s not surprising that we haven’t had many developments, but there must be a problem somewhere in the testing because there have been a lot of defective batteries lately, and I don’t think that many recalls can be blamed on manufacturing malfunctions. We need more stable battery chemistries. I have heard of new mixtures such as sulfur dioxide (I believe), though they will be years before coming to market, as they still have much testing to do.

I suppose all I can do for now is take comfort in the fact that research is being done. I’d take the battery out of my laptop, but then its unreliable AC socket would make the power cut out every few minutes. I just hope my battery wasn’t made by Sony.


I am an avid technology and software user, in addition to being reasonably well-versed in CSS, JavaScript, HTML, PHP, Python, and (though it still scares me) Perl. Aside from my technological tendencies, I am also a theatre technician, sound designer, violinist, singer, and actor.

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