Why Do Phones Explode? (And How to Prevent It)

by ANDREW HEINZMAN 

A woman gasping as her phone bursts into flames
HomeArt/Shutterstock

Every few years, exploding phones find a way to dominate the news cycle. And while these accidents are incredibly rare, they’re a bit difficult to understand. Why do phones explode? And how do I know that my phone won’t explode?

Thermal Runaway Causes Phone Explosions
Whenever a Li-ion battery explodes or catches fire, it’s undergoing a process called thermal runaway. This process can be a bit difficult to understand, so we’ll keep things short, sweet, and free of dense scientific jargon.

Lithium-ion batteries contain a ton of Li-ion cells. Each of these cells has a critical temperature—think of it as a boiling point. When the critical temperature of a cell is reached (due to external heat, overcharging, damage, or poor manufacturing), it enters an exothermic breakdown. Basically, the cell itself starts to release a ton of heat.

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