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Smart Phones, Lithium Batteries & Toxic Gases

sam184906_600Dozens of dangerous gases are produced by the batteries found in billions of consumer devices, like smartphones and tablets, according to a new study. The research, published in Nano Energy, identified more than 100 toxic gases released by lithium batteries, including carbon monoxide.

The gases are potentially fatal, they can cause strong irritations to the skin, eyes and nasal passages, and harm the wider environment. The researchers behind the study, from the Institute of NBC Defence and Tsinghua University in China, say many people may be unaware of the dangers of overheating, damaging or using a disreputable charger for their rechargeable devices.

The dangers of exploding batteries have led manufacturers to recall millions of devices. But the threats posed by toxic gas emissions and the source of these emissions are not well understood.

Dr. Jie Sun, professor at the Institute of NBC Defence,  and her colleagues identified several factors that can cause an increase in the concentration of the toxic gases emitted. A fully charged battery will release more toxic gases than a battery with 50 percent charge, for example. The chemicals contained in the batteries and their capacity to release charge also affected the concentrations and types of toxic gases released.

“Such dangerous substances, in particular carbon monoxide, have the potential to cause serious harm within a short period of time if they leak inside a small, sealed environment, such as the interior of a car or an airplane compartment,” Dr. Sun said.

Toxicity, a serious concern of thermal runaway from commercial Li-ion battery. Nano Energy, 2016; 27: 313 DOI: 10.1016/j.nanoen.2016.06.031

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