Imagine frnzz… we are listening to songs in an iPod keeping the iPod in our pockets, suddenly flames come out from our pockets… and before we realize what is happening we may stuck in fire… what guys… do u think i am kidding? Well… unfortunately i am not kidding… let me start with an example…

During his shift at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Danny Williams found that something unusual was happening to his pants. They were on fire. The Apple iPod Nano that Williams had in his pocket had caught fire, and the flames reached to his chest. Luckily, Williams was able to put the fire out without suffering any serious physical harm. He told a local news station that he had a piece of coated paper in his pocket, which he believes protected him from being burned.

After Apple heard about the incident, the company asked Williams to send his burned iPod to them and promised to furnish him with a new one. But while Apple reacted quickly to help one of its customers, the company is probably still holding its breath back at corporate headquarters. Williams’ burning iPod is just one example of a rash of consumer electronics that have caught fire, costing companies millions of dollars. Williams, you see, is not the first to suffer electronic spontaneous combustion. Cell phones, PDAs, and laptop computers from other companies have also been the source of surprise flames.

Why is this happening? Why are they getting burnt? Let us see through guys…

The reason behind all of the flame-ups has been traced back to the lithium-ion batteries commonly used in products like laptop computers, cell phones and, yes, iPods.

The flaming batteries found in some laptops, and has explained how lithium-ion batteries work (it turns out that they don’t run on gas). Declaring lithium-ion batteries as potentially hazardous is not new. So why do consumer electronic companies use them?

The answer is because the batteries give a lot of bang for the buck. They can hold up to six times the charge of a regular lead-acid battery (like the kind used in a car) for the same amount of battery weight, which makes them very valuable for making mobile devices like cell phones and laptops lighter. They are also rechargeable. The problem with lithium-ion batteries is that they degrade over the course of a few years. As the batteries degrade, the lithium and carbon that create the charge also degrade, and impurities form.

Sony says that the battery fires are caused by microscopic metal particles that come in contact with the other parts of the battery cell, causing a short circuit. The company says that on most occasions, the battery will shut down when a short circuit occurs. In some instances, however, the short circuit will cause an overheating of the battery cell, which could then erupt in flames

Flaming consumer products add up to more than just threatened lives, lawsuits, recalls and lost revenue. It also further illuminates a painful fact that is well-known in the tech industry: Battery technology has not been able to keep up with the rapid progress of consumer electronics. As iPods get smaller, laptops get lighter, and cell phones get slimmer, the designs of these products are still held back by the bulky — and, at times, dangerous — batteries they use. We live in an increasingly wireless world. Companies that produce wireless devices are forced to use batteries, and currently the best batteries for mobile devices are lithium-ion.

Battery Breakthroughs?
In the search for a better battery, researchers are trying everything they can think of. One team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is looking at capacitors, a type of electricity generator that dates back 300 years. Capacitors don’t store as much of a charge as batteries, but they can be recharged in a few seconds, as opposed to the hours it takes rechargeable batteries to power up. Capacitors can also be recharged hundreds of thousands of times, which vastly extends their life over lithium-ion batteries.

The reason capacitors have fallen out of use is that they require a large surface area to power a device such as a laptop. The MIT researchers have gotten around this by applying nanotechnology to the capacitor. Nanotechnology uses incredibly small materials — the MIT scientists are using nanotubes, which are 30,000 times thinner than a human hair .

By expanding the amount of matter within the capacitor surface on a nanoscale, the researchers were able to give the capacitor the power required by mobile devices and electric cars, while reducing the surface area needed to generate the electricity.

MIT isn’t the only institution taking another look at the capacitor. A team at LG Chemicals has created a hybrid of rechargeable battery and capacitor that is lightweight and biodegradable. The battery can store energy, and the capacitor releases that energy safely in large, predictable amounts. But the plastic battery is still under research, and in its current form won’t make it to the market — it can only hold about the same charge as a traditional alkaline battery, like the ones that power your point-and-shoot digital camera.

The LG battery does have an extra bonus in addition to its biodegradable property. It can be molded into any shape, which means that mobile device designers would no longer have to create a product based first on the size and shape of the battery it uses .

Batteries of all stripes traditionally rely on chemicals to create their charge. But research into a new type of battery uses more organic substances. In 2006, the U.S. Air Force granted $4.5 million to a University of Southern California-based research team to continue its investigation into using microbes as a power source. In the late 1980s, researchers discovered that the Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 bacteria naturally generates electricity, and since then, science has been searching for a way to harness its power and apply it to practical applications. The USC researchers have created a microbial fuel cell using the MR-1, but it’s only been able to produce a weak current so far. The Air Force funding should help ensure that the researchers will continue their investigation, however .

Regardless of what technology is employed in the battery of the future, it must possess at least three properties: It must be lightweight, it must be long-lasting, and — perhaps most importantly — it must not catch fire.

Posted BY

Ravi Teja (ECE 3/4) MGIT

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