Batteries can be dangerous. Last year, Samsung recalled an entire line of phones because the lithium-ion batteries had a habit of exploding, and they were far from the first ones to do so. A whole range of products, including hoverboards, vape pens, and even a NASA robot, have suffered from exploding batteries. But a group of Stanford researchers may have found a solution.
It's easy to forget that batteries are basically tiny bombs. They store large amounts of energy and are designed to release that energy on command. Usually that happens gradually, but occasionally something can go wrong and all that energy is released all at once. This can be the result of a manufacturing defect, overcharging, or damage.
A group of Stanford researchers are trying to fix this problem by developing a lithium-ion battery with a built-in fire extinguisher. Their battery includes a small shell containing triphenyl phosphate (TPP), a fire retardant, which is placed within the electrolyte liquid inside the battery. The shell is designed to melt at high temperatures, around 300 degrees Fahrenheit, releasing the TPP. In laboratory tests, this setup manages to extinguish fires in about half a second, long before any serious damage can be done.
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