Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Units Exploded Due to Its 'Aggressive Design': Report

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Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Units Exploded Due to Its 'Aggressive Design': Report
Highlights
  • The cramming of many features into one phone proved to be fatal
  • There was no space left for the battery to expand in the future
  • Samsung reportedly lost billions in profits due to the recall

Samsung held a grand Unpacked event in August to unveil its most promising device ever, convinced that this device would finally let the tech giant claim the throne it sought so badly. However, the turn of events since then has been a living nightmare for Samsung. What is even worse is that the root cause of these Samsung Galaxy Note 7 explosions is not yet known, even after all the engineers at Samsung tirelessly tried to find the flaw. However, folks at Instrumental did their own R&D alongside and have come up with a potential theory explaining these explosions.

According to a report by Instrumental, the aggressive design strategy of cramming the biggest possible battery into the smallest possible frame is what caused the Galaxy Note 7 to explode. The large battery inside a 5.7-inch device with all the other features, including a separate slot for the S Pen to fit in, has reportedly been the cause of these explosions. To fit the large battery, Samsung left virtually no space (less than 0.1mm in some places) around the circumference, when the company ideally should have left a 10 percent gap for the battery to expand over time. The compression of the battery thanks to the stress of being placed in pockets, alongside the natural swelling, is reportedly the driving factor causing many Samsung Galaxy Note 7 units to catch fire.

The Note 7's lithium-polymer battery is a flattened "jelly-roll" consisting of a positive layer made of lithium cobalt oxide, a negative layer made of graphite, and two electrolyte-soaked separator layers made of polymer. The separator layers allow ions (and energy) to flow between the positive and negative layers, without allowing those layers to touch. If the positive and negative layers ever do touch, the energy flowing goes directly into the electrolyte, heating it, which causes more energy to flow and more heat - it typically results in an explosion. Compressing the battery puts pressure on those critical polymer separator layers that keep the battery safe.

Samsung stated that these separator layers may have been thin to start with due to aggressive manufacturing parameters. Add some pressure due to normal mechanical swell from the battery or accumulated stress through the back cover (e.g. from being sat on in a back pocket), and that pressure could be enough to squeeze the thin polymer separator to a point where the positive and negative layers can touch, causing the battery to explode.

If this is true, this design ignorance proved to be fatal for the company - both in respect of brand value and monetary losses. The report also stresses that the recall was imminent, as the problem would've worsened in the future. For those Galaxy Note 7's that didn't explode till recall, would do so eventually, as the battery tends to swell up through continual recharging over time, and with no place to expand, the smartphone would explode under pressure.

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Tasneem Akolawala Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com. More
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