iPod Battery Dangers

May 13th, 2005

"Don't put your iPod through the washing machine. And if for some reason you do, don't try to fix it with a screwdriver.

That's the advice of fire investigators probing a small explosion that burned a hole in the bed of a Melbourne teenager who tried to perform emergency surgery on his ailing mp3 player."

The dangers of iPod ownership seem to be in the news regularly now - the dangers of being mugged, the dangers from the having music blaring in your ears, the dangers of walking or driving when wearing earphones. Seems like iPods might be what kills us all off!

Well, OK, maybe not! But this new article I've found highlights another danger.

What happened here is that the iPod got wet when it was put through the washing machine and the intrepid owner decided that he was going to have a look inside his soggy iPod and see if it could be fixed. The details are sketchy but it seems that there was a small fire accompanied by the release of acrid fumes.

Lithium cobalt oxide and lithium hexafluorophosphate are the key ingredients in rechargeable Li-Ion batteries. Both of these are rather nasty chemicals and lithium hexafluorophosphate is a corrosive substance that can decompose when heated to give off highly toxic and highly corrosive fluorine gas (this is very, very nasty stuff - if you don't believe me check out the materials safety data sheet for this noxious gas - pleasant dreams!).

When locked up inside a sealed battery these chemicals are quite harmless and batteries that are treated right pose little danger (I've had loads of devices powered by Li-Ion and never had a problem or heard of one first-hand). However, expose a battery to excess heat (through overcharging or in a fire) and you could have troubles. This kind of overheating can occur if the battery is shorted, say by water, which is quite possibly what happened in this case.

Manufacturers of Li-Ion batteries don't normally talk about explosions in their literature. Instead, "venting with flame" is the terminology that they tend to use and although this is a less violent reaction than a full-blown explosion, venting with flame can certainly inflicts injury to those in close proximity.

But this isn't just an iPod issue - anything that contains a Li-Ion battery could go up in smoke int he same way - cell phones, laptops (pretty big battery in them), GPS receivers, PDAs.

Battery safety tips:

  • Use the proper charger - don't use any charger that happens to look right. Make sure that the chargers you use are the right charger for the job.
  • Don't expose the battery to direct heat or strong sunlight (like on a car dashboard in summer).
  • Never short-circuit a battery.
  • Keep batteries dry.
  • Dispose of used batteries responsibly. It is strongly recommended that you return used batteries to manufacturer or call/fax manufacturer to collect it for disposal. To prevent environmental pollution, never throw it away.
  • If a fire does occur, the recommended procedure is to submerge the battery in water for at least 30 minutes.

This entry was posted on Friday, May 13th, 2005 at 11:48 and is filed under In the News, Stay Safe!. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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