This “smart” battery warns you before it bursts into flames

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Scientists have developed a “smart” lithium-ion battery that alerts users of potential overheating and fire. The new technology is designed for conventional lithium-ion batteries now used in billions of cell phones, laptops and other electronic devices as well as a growing number of cars and airplanes. “Our goal is to create an early warning system that saves lives and property,” said Yi Cui, associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford University.

Lithium ion batteries are wonderful things, but they’re unfortunately given to short circuiting and bursting into flames every now and then. It’s extraordinarily rare, but it happens. A Stanford research team thinks they’ve solved this little big problem by building an early warning system into an existing battery. They say it could save lives, which makes sense, because fire. First of all, for the battery noobs among us: The first lithium ion battery for consumers was released by Sony in 1991, though scientists had worked on the type for decades. Inside each battery are three basic parts: A positive lithium electrode (or cathode), a carbon negative electrode (or anode), and a thing separation between the two. This separation is what lets lithium ions pass back and forth in the process of charging and discharging.

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