After Samsung’s staggering recall of millions and millions of Galaxy Note 7 devices around the world, we still don’t know the reasons behind its explosive nature. Sure, we know that it’s related to the battery of the device, but aside from that little tidbit little is known behind the reasons behind the battery failure of the new phones.
Well, Anna Shedletsky, CEO and Founder of Instrumental may have found the reason for it. After tearing down a Galaxy Note 7, she and Samuel Weiss discovered that Samsung’s aggressive, cutting-edge battery design may have been the culprit for the failure. The Korean company’s thirst for innovation meant that Samsung engineers were forced to push the boundaries of battery design, and their quest for higher capacities in a small footprint meant that the polymer separator layers had to be extremely thin – thinner than competing batteries. That meant a lower safety margin in the event of swelling due to heat, outside pressure (when the phone is accidentally sat on) and normal mechanical swell from use. Here’s their technical explanation:
The Note 7’s lithium-polymer battery is a flattened “jelly-roll” consisting of a positive layer made of lithium cobalt oxide, a negative layer made of graphite, and two electrolyte-soaked separator layers made of polymer. The separator layers allow ions (and energy) to flow between the positive and negative layers, without allowing those layers to touch. If the positive and negative layers ever do touch, the energy flowing goes directly into the electrolyte, heating it, which causes more energy to flow and more heat — it typically results in an explosion. Compressing the battery puts pressure on those critical polymer separator layers that keep the battery safe.
Because of how thin the layers were, it’s entirely possible that the battery was being squeezed to the point where the positive and negative layers would touch, causing the battery to explode. Samsung pushed the boundaries of design and technology in many parts of the Note 7, unfortunately they pushed too far. Because of their hyper-aggressive design approach to the Note 7 in an attempt to capitalize on Apple’s lack of innovation, Samsung now has to pay the hefty price of a damaged reputation and over $5 billion in lost revenue due to the global Note 7 recall.