Samsung has said that 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 smartphones would be recalled following global reports of battery malfunctions that leave the phones fire-prone.
As of a few weeks ago, there had been 35 customer reports worldwide of Note 7 phones exploding while charging, the cause of which has been said by the company to be battery cell problems. The company said in a press release that it was carrying out a strictly monitored investigation to determine the source of defective batteries.
“However, as customers’ safety is our absolute priority, we have decided to halt all sales of Galaxy Note 7 products,” the announcement by Samsung reads. Samsung is focusing on solid customer support practices in an effort to remedy the situation – a move that could cost them tens of millions of dollars.
“Battery failures are exceedingly rare,” says Donal Finegan, a chemical engineer at University College London. “Any kind of fault does garner a lot of media attention and can really affect the reputation of a product that relies on the battery.” Like many rechargeable devices, phones use lithium-ion cells. But what makes these batteries great at powering gadgets also makes them vulnerable to catching fire, says Finegan. “They are so energy-dense and can operate under such high power that they can combust in a particularly catastrophic way.”
Overheating is obviously driven by temperature rise. This can be due to the environment, such as a hot car in summer, or through heat transferred to a battery from another component inside the phone. Heating can also begin within a battery itself, which is what is happening in the “battery cell issue” in Samsung’s Note 7 smart phones.
One cause of combustion is a problem with the “battery management system” that monitors the electrical current and normally tells a chip inside the phone to stop the current once a battery is fully charged. If the system or chip are faulty, a battery can enter a state of “overcharge”.
“The battery can continue to charge and can become even more unstable and eventually just burst into flames itself, without any kind of external heating,” Finegan explains.
Phones don’t contain fans or the liquid cooling mechanism you’ll find in a gaming PC or electric vehicle, so heat must radiate out into the surroundings. If that doesn’t happen, heat is generated faster than it can be dissipated or lost.
When a battery reaches about 100ºC (200ºF), its materials start to break down, triggering a chemical chain reaction that releases its own energy. This accelerates the warming and leads to a snowball effect — a process called “thermal runaway”.
“The snowball effect happens so fast that, within a second, the entire cell goes from being intact to being completely destroyed,” says Finegan.
According to Samsung, over 2.5 million Note 7 phones had been shipped since its introduction in August, though the firm refused to disclose the cost of the massive global recall, showing how important it is for this smartphone super-power to treat its customers right. The use of a respected online customer support service platform provides them with the ability to solve the concerns of millions of customers.
Those who have already purchased Samsung’s Note 7 may contact the nearest authorized customer support center.