Lithium Ion Battery Expert Opines on Spontaneous Cell Phone Battery Explosion

Batteries Expert WitnessThis case involves an individual who was burned when the lithium-ion battery contained within his smartphone spontaneously exploded while the plaintiff was on a call. The phone had been purchased within a year of its initial release, and was representative of the defendant company’s latest model. At the time of the accident, the battery had recently been charged to full capacity using the charger that had originally been supplied with the phone by the manufacturer. It was alleged that the failure was caused by a critical failure in the battery’s design, which allowed the negative and positive electrodes to deform and come into contact within the battery pouch. As a result of the explosion, the plaintiff suffered severe and disfiguring burns to his face and right hand.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please briefly describe your familiarity with lithium-ion batteries, especially their use in cell phones.

Expert Witness Response E-015267

I have multiple years of experience working with different battery chemistries, including lithium-ion varieties for rechargeable applications. Lithium-ion batteries come in a variety of chemical formulations designed to increase the energy storage, increase the power delivery, and improve the stability of the lithium-based battery. Early lithium based batteries were very unstable and were prone to fire from changes in pressure, temperature, fast rates of charge discharge and other factors. More modern Li-based batteries add other materials to improve the stability and are less likely to catch fire. That said, the quality of the batter and the quality of the chemistry means that proper due diligence is needed to select an OEM supplier and proper process control and monitoring is needed to ensure a continuously high-quality product is procured. Lowest-cost suppliers, usually from China, have a history of cutting corners and thus more likely to have quality problems that could take an otherwise well-designed battery and cause it to become unstable to not meet lifetime and performance metrics. It is likely that there is a quality control issue on the part of the battery supplier that is allowing batteries with this critical fault to reach end users.


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