BLithium, the third element on the period table, is a silver-white metal that can catch fire when exposed to oxygen or water, Lloyd Gordon, the chief electrical safety officer at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico,told Live Science last year.ut in 1991, Sony Corp. commercialized a way to safely use the ions, mainly by keeping the lithium ions in a suspension or chemical so that it isn't pure lithium, Gordon said.
Well-made electronics have safety measures built into their lithium-ion batteries, but faulty ones with poorly made electric circuitry can meet with fiery ends, he said.
For instance, faulty batteries can be overcharged. Well-made batteries will stop charging automatically once they're full, but that's not always the case for faulty batteries, Gordon told Live Science. If left plugged in for too long, the lithium ions can collect in one spot and be deposited as metallic lithium within the battery, he said. Also, heat from the overcharging can cause oxygen bubbles within the gel, which are highly reactive with metallic lithium.
Likewise, defective lithium-ion batteries can also be over-discharged, meaning they don't shut off when the power is too low, which can also lead to fires, Gordon said.
It's unclear exactly what's causing the problem in some Galaxy Note 7 devices, but one user showcased the result on YouTube after he removed the phone from its official Samsung charger.
As of Sept. 1, Samsung is aware of 35 cases globally of lithium-ion battery malfunction, the company said in a statement.
"In response to recently reported cases of the new Galaxy Note7, we conducted a thorough investigation and found a battery cell issue," the company said in the statement. The company said it would temporarily halt sales of the device, and that it would replace current Galaxy Note7 smartphones with newer, safer models in the coming weeks, Samsung added.
Samsung Electronics Co. lost $22 billion of market value over two days as investors factor in a bigger hit to its bottom line from widening bans and warnings on its Note 7 smartphones.
Shares have plunged 11 percent since Friday, the biggest two-day decline since 2008, after U.S. regulators joined the company in cautioning users to power down their Note 7s and refrain from charging them. Aviation authorities and airlines have called on passengers to stop using the gadgets during flights.
The stock drop suggests the damage to Samsung’s brand could go well beyond the early estimates of $1 billion for a single product’s recall. The company has spent heavily on marketing its name in past years, and had hoped to get a head start on Apple Inc. by unveiling its device weeks before the new iPhone emerged. That advantage has now disappeared.
“Samsung’s nightmare is just getting worse and worse,” said Bryan Ma, vice president of devices research for IDC. It’s possible that airlines, rather than isolating Note 7s, may decide to ban all Samsung phones given the difficulty of differentiating between models. “If true, then the Note 7 could end up dragging down the rest of the portfolio.”
Samsung announced the recall on Sept. 2 after about three dozen of the premium smartphones were found to have batteries that caught fire or exploded. On Saturday, Samsung told users in South Korea to stop using the devices and to bring them to its service centers -- less than a month after they made their debut.
Note 7s with new batteries are due to become available on Sept. 19. The Suwon, South Korea-based has said about 2.5 million had been shipped before their recall, including those in the hands of consumers and carriers.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Samsung are in talks on an official recall of the devices as soon as possible. Almost all CPSC recalls are done voluntarily in conjunction with a company and the scope of any action on the Note 7 may be identical to what Samsung has already suggested to consumers. But once the agency becomes involved, it triggers additional protections for people. For example, U.S. law prohibits the sale or resale of any recalled item once CPSC acts.
“The uncertainty over the Note 7 recall has grown following the tough reactions from the U.S.,” said Lee Seung Woo, an analyst at IBK Securities Co. in Seoul. “Samsung has to settle this situation as early as possible by replacing every Note 7 device in order to reassure customers. In the worst case scenario, Samsung may have to consider discontinuing Note 7 sales for a time.”
The CPSC advisory came on the heels of warnings from aviation regulators in several countries and airlines. The European Aviation Safety Agency on Friday cautioned flyers against packing them in checked bags, according to a posting on its website. That followed a non-binding warning issued Thursday by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.
Similar moves have taken place in India while Singapore Airlines Ltd. barred travelers from powering up or charging the devices on flights. U.S. carriers are taking a variety of steps following the FAA’s statement. Delta Air Lines Inc. posted a notice on its website telling passengers to comply with the regulator’s guidance while Southwest Airlines Co. will share information on its website and social-media channels to make passengers aware of the FAA’s recommendations.
“The market certainly thinks this is going to cost more than $1 billion,” said Anthea Lai, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “You have to persuade normal consumers that they should try to convince airlines and guards that these phones are now okay. Most people are just not going to bother. They’ll want new phones.”