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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Help! My laptop is on FIRE

The spontaneous combustion of several Dell machines has resulted in more that 200,000 laptop batteries being recalled worldwide. Let find out why laptops are given off so much heat.

Inside the laptop
With users demanding more speed, power and capacity from their laptops, manufacturers are packing in more powerful components. Some of these parts like the CPU, graphics processors, hard disks and memory modules generate a lot of heat.

Inside the battery
Lithium-ion batteries produce energy through a chemical reaction that releases oxygen. When the battery heats up beyond 150 deg C, the reaction speeds up and more oxygen is produced. This facilitates burning in the battery, creating more heat that feeds the reaction even further. The result: a condition known as thermal runaway. As the battery gets hotter and pressure builds up, it becomes unstable and goes kaboom!

Laptop design
To increase mobility, laptops are made thinner and lighter. This means less space for air circulation, making it harder for heat to dissipate. Bright screens contribute to the heat too.

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