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mattrmiller

Playing with Fire

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Nobody knows it yet but I heard on the radio some time ago that now Toshiba and Hitachi laptops were also being recalled, last time I checked. Get those batteries checked, y'all!

Edited by EclipseWebJS2

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Great read Rob.

 

It is important to note that IBM, Fujitsu, and Toshiba have also instituted recalls for machines with Sony batteries.

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I find it very interesting that I have not seen anything about the batteries in the Sony laptops being recalled, since Sony has been the manufacturer on all the recalled batteries. I bought a Sony Vaio this July, and no notice from Sony, either.

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1. I am using a Targus notebook Chill Mat. (Note that it is for Notebooks.) This sits below the notebook and has two fans that blow air up onto the bottom surface of the notebook to complement the cooling provided by the notebook's fan.

 

I don't know how effective this Chill Mat is but I suspect that Rob could contact Tarus and get some technical information to share with us. He has the clout to get their attention.

 

 

2. I am retired from IBM where I was a semicondutor engineer. Before that I was in the battery and electrochemical businesses. Lithium batteries wern't arround yet then but I am pretty confident that the culprit is hydrogen generation during the charging cycle. Lithium however is so reactive there could be other factors. I worked on cadmium - nickel (NiCd) batteries and for the sealed rechargables there always was a problem with excessive hydrogten pressure being built up that would cause the top to blow off and it would look like a chemical-reaction explosion.

 

I also worked on the first prototype oxygen generator for nuclear submarines. Here by electrolysis you were geneating from water oxygen for the sub's personnel to breathe with a byproduct of hydrogen. The trick here was to keep the two separate (They were formed at different anodes.) If there was any mixxing of the two then a combustible mix could result in a real explosion.

 

I will be looking forward to Robb's upcoming articles on this. I an especially interested to see if my diagnosis was correct. I has been many years since I was in the battery business.

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I have a very strong feeling that all manufacturers are going to have to do some recall at some point. Dell, Apple, and Sony were the first to announce a recall. Doing a recall is an expensive and painful process. Perhaps the smaller guys are not properly prepared to do a recall financially and operationally, so it will take longer for them to do it.

 

Villager, your comments are dead on. Keeping your unit cool could eliminate the chance of explosion and at the very least, lower the probability that it happens. The analogy that I have heard is the battery is like a jelly roll with the bread and the jelly neatly intertwined. Problems occur when the jelly and the bread start to intertwine causing a chemical reaction making the battery heat up even more. And then it is like a chain reaction after that.

 

Stay tuned, we have a lot more interesting stuff coming.

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Most of the laptop users I know or have ever seen keep the battery in all the time.

 

I am wondering if there is more danger in leaving a non-rechargable (i.e. worn-out) battery in while plugged in than a good battery? My old battery has about 5 - 10 minutes life when the power goes out, so I have been leaving it in to serve as a poor substitute for a UPS. I keep my good battery for when I'm portable.

 

Doesn't the battery serve as a sort of line regulator, absorbing brownouts, surges, etc.? Does it help protect from lightening surges like a UPS, or will these zap a plugged-in laptop anyway? Seems to me the wall wart (AC power adapter) would blow first.

 

Also, I have heard that if a Li-Ion battery ever becomes fully discharged from sitting too long without being charged that it becomes useless. Is this true? Is it better to store it fully charged, partially charged, or discharged?

 

duh'g

aka Doug Smith

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The Instruction Manual for my Dell Inspiron 2200 states: For optimal computer performance and to help preserve BIOS settings, operate your Dell™ portable computer with the main battery installed at all times. A friend's Dell Inspiron 6000 also states " Operate your Dell Laptop with the battery installed at all times " Neither of these laptops have Sony batteries incidently.

I have read that all laptops built in the last year have circuitry that limits the amount of charge according to the state of the battery so there is no danger of the battery overheating due to being overcharged. I have just removed the battery from this laptop (running on AC) and it is cool, and I wonder if the overheating problems only occur in older laptops or with batteries that do not have the latest circuits.

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Hello Beware and Doug,

 

Welcome to the PC Pitstop forum. I'll try to respond to both your comments together.

 

LiON batteries have a shelf life that is independent of use. The average shelf life is thought to be between 1.5 - 2 years. After that, they fail to hold a charge anymore.

 

The problem can occur on any notebook regardless of age. That said, there have been improvements in protection circuits that reduce the probability of its occurence. Both in the computer itself and also in the batteries.

 

Although Dell's manual says to leave the battery in the system at all times, I am sure the manual was written long before the recall happened. Dell's first response after the recall, was to tell affected users to run the system on AC power WITHOUT the battery. It just stands to reason that if either protection circuit fail, there would be no harm if the battery is outside of the PC. By removing the battery from the PC, you put the probability of the problem occuring at zero.

 

Please take our survey. http://www.surveymonkey.asp/s.asp?u=183432629330

 

We are finding some fascinating results about how users are responding to this danger in portable computing. We will share the results as soon as we reach statistical significance.

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I have a very strong feeling that all manufacturers are going to have to do some recall at some point. Dell, Apple, and Sony were the first to announce a recall. Doing a recall is an expensive and painful process. Perhaps the smaller guys are not properly prepared to do a recall financially and operationally, so it will take longer for them to do it.

 

Villager, your comments are dead on. Keeping your unit cool could eliminate the chance of explosion and at the very least, lower the probability that it happens. The analogy that I have heard is the battery is like a jelly roll with the bread and the jelly neatly intertwined. Problems occur when the jelly and the bread start to intertwine causing a chemical reaction making the battery heat up even more. And then it is like a chain reaction after that.

 

Stay tuned, we have a lot more interesting stuff coming.

 

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One more thing about the chill mats. Not only will they keep the battery cool they keep the entire laptop cool.

 

This lengthens the life of every component and hence the life of your computer. There is a very substantial amount of heat produced from the semiconductor devices. As you keep shrinking the devices (more per square inch) the heat generated increases.

 

With laptops you are constrained by their size. You want them to keep getting smaller which results in more heat per cubic inch. At the same time the fan can't be very large so the heat is really a problem. Hence the chill mats.

 

Large mainframes generate so much heat that some if not all are water cooled.

 

I sure would like Rob to contact a chill mat manufacturer and get their comments for us to share.

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1. I am using a Targus notebook Chill Mat. (Note that it is for Notebooks.) This sits below the notebook and has two fans that blow air up onto the bottom surface of the notebook to complement the cooling provided by the notebook's fan.

 

I don't know how effective this Chill Mat is but I suspect that Rob could contact Tarus and get some technical information to share with us. He has the clout to get their attention.

2. I am retired from IBM where I was a semicondutor engineer. Before that I was in the battery and electrochemical businesses. Lithium batteries wern't arround yet then but I am pretty confident that the culprit is hydrogen generation during the charging cycle. Lithium however is so reactive there could be other factors. I worked on cadmium - nickel (NiCd) batteries and for the sealed rechargables there always was a problem with excessive hydrogten pressure being built up that would cause the top to blow off and it would look like a chemical-reaction explosion.

 

I also worked on the first prototype oxygen generator for nuclear submarines. Here by electrolysis you were geneating from water oxygen for the sub's personnel to breathe with a byproduct of hydrogen. The trick here was to keep the two separate (They were formed at different anodes.) If there was any mixxing of the two then a combustible mix could result in a real explosion.

 

I will be looking forward to Robb's upcoming articles on this. I an especially interested to see if my diagnosis was correct. I has been many years since I was in the battery business.

 

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I have a laptop which runs very hot -- to hot to touch on the bottom. The Targus fan cooler works great. The computer is very cool now. I consider that a safety item re: Li Ion battery.

 

However, I removed the battery because the computer is 98% A-C pwr. To protect from surges, etc., I added a small USP.

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Heat is certainly the most straight forward way to creating a Li-On fire. Keepig the computer cool reduces the chance of the fire, and also will improve the longevity of all your components in your PC. Heat is a computer's enemy. But heat is not the only way the runaway state can occur. I also worry about blunt force. If a sharp object punctures the inside of the battery, the mixture of chemicals can also create the runaway state.

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Great info should save some of us from having too much excitement. :)

 

:clap: How to find out the manufacturer's name of my laptop battery(model Compaq presario laptop model v3200) which was purchased four months back in India from an authorised HP retail outlet?

please guide me on this.

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vsraman5,

 

Check out my artilcle to learn more about your battery.

 

http://www.pcpitstop.com/news/rob/rcheng0611.asp

 

But the answer to your question is simple. Turn off the computer and then look at the other side of the battery. There is usually a label that tells the manufacturer of the battery, the battery serial number, and the type of technology used in the battery.

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http://www.pcpitstop.com/news/rob/rcheng0611.asp

By putting a third party's battery in your notebook, it is voiding the warranty...

 

I'm curious, which laptop vendors claim this?

 

My understanding of US law is that federal anti-trust regulations prohibit the automatic voiding of warranties simply because you've used a non-OEM part.

 

Now, if that battery blows up, and it wasn't the fault of the laptop's charging circuitry, then the laptop manufacturer won't be replacing it under warranty or anything. I frequently see warnings to the effect of, "If you put non-OEM parts in this device, and they damage it, that's not covered under warranty." That is, however, _very_ different from "put a non-OEM battery in and we won't fix your hard drive if it dies the next day" which is what voiding the warranty would mean.

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Full article available at http://pcpitstop.com/news/rob/rcheng0610.asp

 

Are you kidding me?

 

"Did you know that when plugged into the wall, you can remove the battery entirely from your portable? The only benefit to having the battery in the PC with AC power, is in the event of a power shortage, your portable has an alternate energy source."

 

I understand this for users that are ONLY plugged in, but I'd be willing to bet that most people are connected to AC power because they need to charge their battery, not because they love the thrill of being tethered to a wall outlet when they don't need to be. I think it's hilarious that you're "astonished" by the number of portable users that are connected . . . what did you expect those results to be? I know you're not an idiot, but what a bonehead thing to say. Who woulda thunk that that many portable users need to charge their battteries? I'm baffled. Wow.

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JMSB,

 

I was astonished at the number of portables that are always connected to the wall. That is they are never run off battery power. It was close to 20%, yet they still leave the battery in. This increases the risk of a battery fire and for no reason at all.

 

Thanks for reading the article and taking the time of responding.

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I use my notebook quite a bit for my business. I'd say about 90% or more of the time, it sits on my desk. However, I do occasionally have to take it to a job site (and for some reason, there never seems to be a plug right beside where I need to work). The last thing I want to to do is snap in my battery on site, only to find half the charge has leaked out since I last used it. Typically, I don't get alot of notice before being sent out....so it's not like I can always just charge it the night before.

 

Now (for a less work related example)...let's say that you like drinking Starbuck's lattes while reading the MSN news updates. Since I can say, with a fair amount of certainty, that the average coffee house (or whatever little WiFi hotspot is convenient for you) has this thing against people stringing dozens of wires across the floor....not having the battery charged on your notebook is probably a bad thing in this scenario. Not to mention, that even if there are tables beside electrical outlets, most folks I see don't use them. Since I am also fairly certain that the people using these hotspots aren't about to stop going to them, you certainly can't expect these folks to leave their notebooks plugged in without the battery.

 

Also, I just have to ask...how do you know that 20% of folks never run their notebooks off of battery power? Why would they buy the notebook at all, if not to be able to carry it around every now and again without lugging cables about or having to worry about finding an outlet? There are several very compact desktops made, so saving some desk space shouldn't be an issue if it's just going to sit in one place.

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Let me tell you of my recent experience with a standard AA (Kirkland) alkaline battery. I was on my computer using my older Microsoft wireless mouse when I heard a loud noise that sounded like a pistol shot. I looked around and could find nothing that created the shot. A little later my mouse started "leaking". Opening it up I saw that one of the batteries was swollen and was leaking fluid. I concluded that the battery had imploded. I took the battery and the old mouse to my local Costco store and explained that their battery had imploded and leaked, ruining my mouse. They responded by giving me a new Microsoft Mouse. (Getting the new mouse, I didn't have the guts to also ask for a replacement battery).

Has anyone else ever had such as experience with AA batteries ?

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a battery did this in my daughters toy and the acid was all over her hands, i had to take her to the emergency room!

 

we use expensive duracells and energizers "now", cheapo batteries are not an option in our house hold.

Edited by duanester

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