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Two iPhones exploded: Will your iPhone combust?

Two iPhones exploded: Will your iPhone combust?

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After hearing about two stories of iPhone batteries combusting, we asked a battery expert from Carnegie Mellon to explain the risks of owning a cell phone.

Earlier this week, an iPhone 4 battery combusted on an Australian flight. It all started when a passenger's cell phone emitted a significant amount of smoke. Fortunately, a flight attendant extinguished it in time.

A second iPhone 4 battery combusted just inches away from Ayla Mota's face. The Brazilian cell phone owner was charging her phone -- then it combusted and began to emit smoke.

These stories raise questions about the safety of the iPhone batteries. What is to blame? Is it the battery quality or could it be a counterfeit phone?

I asked battery expert Jay Whitacre at Carnegie Mellon University about the risks:

By my count there have been something like 100 million iPhones made.  If there is 1 failure per every 1 million phones sold -- these are some solid odds.

It is not clear that you can engineer this battery any better. Li-ion batteries are full of combustable organic electrolyte solvent and if anything goes wrong, the potential is there for a blow out.

So we will likely continue to see this rate of failure... If failure rate is higher than 1 in 1M, then that's a bigger deal.

Surely, if we hear about more of these cases of batteries exploding, we have something to be concerned about. It looks like it's just a normal technical glitch, so you don't have to worry about your iPhone combusting anytime soon.

Photo: Regional Express via ABC

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Boonsri Dickinson

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Boonsri Dickinson is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has written for Discover, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Nature Biotech, Technewsdaily.com, Techstartups.com and AOL. She's currently a reporter for Business Insider. She holds degrees from the University of Florida and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure