Why Phone Batteries Explode

The science behind that little explosive device in your pocket

Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Samsung's latest flagship device is being recalled after dozens of explosions.Samsung

Why do phone batteries explode? You might expect the answer to be a manufacturing error, but while that's part of the equation, the bigger answer is that the limits of current technology are causing battery makers to push the devices further for less reward.

Samsung found that out the hard way. They're currently recalling the brand new Galaxy Note 7 after dozens of the phones exploded. The culprit: connections being made within the battery that shouldn't be made, effectively turning that power into a little explosive.

The Verge reports that we've nearly reached the theoretical maximum efficiency for lithium-ion batteries. Competing manufacturers are therefore stretching the limits of what could be "safe" to squeeze out a percentage point of efficiency here and there. And since we're dealing with volatile compounds made to capture and release a vast amount of energy, some of those stretches can turn out to be disastrous.

Samsung is just the one who crossed the line this time. The recall of the Galaxy Note 7 is the "perfect storm" of a series of calculated moves that, unfortunately for Samsung, went wrong. But there are plenty of ways the battery problem might only get worse from here.

Read more at The Verge.