Researchers discover phone battery flaw (and easy solution) in most devices

Phone battery - low battery

The Canadian team explained a main cause of self-discharging batteries in laptops and smartphones.

Canadian researchers have determined a phone battery manufacturing flaw affecting most smartphones and laptops, causing them to self-discharge.

The scientists also identified a simple solution that can be used to remedy the situation.

Researchers in Halifax, Canada found that a surprisingly widespread flaw in laptop and phone battery manufacturing causes them to slowly drain unnecessarily.

Phone battery - Person looking at phone battery power

“This is something that is totally unexpected and something that probably no one thought of,” said Dalhousie University assistant professor Michael Metzger of the research team.

The issue is that the tiny tape pieces holding together the battery components are made out of the wrong type of plastic. As a result, the material chosen – which is used in essentially all batteries in phone and laptops, among other rechargeable devices – causes a chemical reaction that allows a power release.

The interior of each cell contains two types of metal, one of which provides a positive electrode and the other is the negative electrode. Both electrodes are in an electrolyte liquid or paste, typically lithium. When cables are connected to each of the battery’s ends, the electrons flow through them, providing power to whatever is on the circuit, be it a smartphone, a laptop, a fitness tracker or anything else. They then return to the battery once again.

When the electrons from the phone battery don’t follow the cables, issues begin to arise.

When the design is such that electrons move through the electrolyte fluid from the charged side of the battery to the other side, it is known as self-discharge. It causes an internal depletion even when an electrical current has never been sent out for use. This explains how a fully charged device can slowly lose charge even when it is turned off.

“These days, batteries are very good,” explained Metzger. “But, like with any product, you want it perfected. And you want to eliminate even small rates of self-discharge.”

The solution to the problem is simply to change the type of plastic used in the manufacturing of the phone batteries so that they don’t use the PET tape which decomposes and allows for unwanted chemical reactions. The recommended change was to polypropylene.

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