Popular batteries generating fear over fires

The batteries power much more than just Samsung phones.

The next few months will be busy for Samsung, as it replaces two and a half million brand new smartphones that were recalled last week because their batteries that can catch fire. 

Lithium ion batteries power as many as 95 percent of rechargeable electronic devices, cell phones, laptops, children's toys and even Tesla automobiles.

Princeton university assistant professor Dan Stein says the danger for lithium ion batteries comes if they are overcharged or overheated. 

"It is causing a firecracker to go off in the battery. If you have one firecracker surrounded by many other firecrackers, it will trigger the other ones to go off, pop, pop, pop," Stein said.

Most of the batteries are made in Asia and the vast majority work without an issue, unless there is a manufacturing flaw such as in the Samsung recall. 

"The only warning is it gets too hot. If you hold the phone in your hand or in your pocket you may notice that and the right thing to do is turn the phone off," said researcher George Crabtree.

The batteries are cheap, small and pack a lot of power. But the fires might just be the spark to push electronic manufacturers to find a better - and safer - way to power our lives.


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