The death of the fourteen-year-old Alua Asetkyzy Abzalbek from Bastobe, Kazakhstan shocked the world and alarmed about the possible tragic consequences of phones.
The girl went to bed with her phone under the pillow, listening to music. The phone was plugged into a nearby power socket. In the early morning, the battery exploded, severely injuring Alua’s head, and killing her instantly.
Her family found Alua in the morning, and immediately called the paramedics, who were unfortunately unable to help. Forensic experts confirmed the accident. The phone, whose brand was not disclosed, exploded in the when it overheated from charging.
The tragic death of the girl caused pain in anyone who knew her. Her best friend, Ayazhan Dolasheva, 15, posted on social media:
“I still cannot believe it. You were the best. We have been together since childhood. It is so hard for me without you. I miss you so much. You have left me forever.”
Sadly, this is not the first accident of this kind.
A man in India was being filmed on CCTV when the phone in his pocket blew up, while he was working in a hardware factory beside two other colleagues. He got burned on his leg, but luckily, he removed the phone before it caused more damage.
Liliya Novikova, 26 — dubbed Russia’s “most beautiful poker player” — was found dead from a suspected massive electric shock in her bathroom. It is believed she has been blow-drying her hair in the bathroom when an accident occurred. Yet, it is also thought she could have been using her mobile at the time.
Plus, an ex-soldier from Britain said the back of his Android handset ‘flew off and caught fire’ when he attempted to manually reset the device. He wanted to restart his Samsung Galaxy S6 smartphone when it became alight in the palm of his hand.
Another incident was captured on camera, when a woman in Shanghai’s Minhang district in East China’s phone exploded on her car’s dashboard, while she was driving. The woman stops her car and runs out screaming, and passersby are checking if she’s okay.
The woman had the battery changed at a mobile repair shop before this event, and even though the company took back the phone and gave her a new battery, they refused to fix the phone and pay for the damages to her car.
Experts explain that in most such cases, it’s the battery at fault, not the phone. Batteries contain separators that prevent two electrodes from connecting.
In the case of a defect in the separators, the electrodes can touch and cause an explosion, as the electrolytes receive the energy that should be contained within the battery. The electrolytes are unstable and sensitive to heat, so other chemicals produce gas that raises that increases heat and pressure and lead to an explosion.
This was also the case with the now infamous Samsung Galaxy Note 7 back in 2016.
Most phones use lithium-ion batteries that can be overcharged safely. Therefore, an explosion of the battery is usually caused by a manufacturing default. Some batteries do not explode even after overcharging it, but there is a limit on everything. According to Princeton University materials scientist Dan Steingart:
“The battery is like a rubber band. When you’re charging the battery, you’re stretching the rubber band; when you’re using it, you’re releasing it. Just like a rubber band can break if you stretch it too much, putting too much energy into one side will ruin the battery.”
Incidents like these are fortunately rare, as phones have built-in safety features to prevent such tragedies. Yet, constantly overcharging a phone can eventually hinder its performance.
Note that if the battery looks deformed or swollen, or continuously overheats without reason, it’s probably damaged. The life of the battery can be shortened due to running many tabs, long phone calls, apps that are demanding for the CPU, charging, or other natural ways a phone can heat up while sitting in direct sunlight.
To prevent this, make sure you remove the phone case while the phone is charging. Do not charge the phone while it is in a location that traps heat, like a bag. Avoid getting it wet, do not keep it exposed to direct sunlight, and do not use wrong or cheap knockoff chargers.
Moreover, you should not leave your phone in a hot car for long, or use it after its battery had got punctured.
Yet, you should still be mindful of exploding phones. It is recommended not to purchase phones that are brand new, and before getting a new phone, make sure you do a quick Google search to investigate its features and experience from other customers.
And while slow-forming mechanical issues rarely lead to phone explosions, it is definitely not a risk that’s worth taking.