Terrifying Moment As Teen's Laptop Bursts Into Flames 4 Times In A Row
Jay Dawson February 13th 2017 Technology
We don't know what we'd do without our smartphones or our laptops. They've become our best friends in this digital age, always there with laughs, jokes, and instant knowledge. But as Devon Johnson of California found out, these best friends can quickly become your worst enemy. When you see this shocking footage you may never want to own a laptop computer ever again.
Um, Is It Supposed To Shoot Fire?
It was an otherwise relaxing night. The 18-year-old Johnson was playing videogames with his buddy while his Dell laptop gently charged on the sofa. All of a sudden - and all caught on home security - his laptop explodes, blasting out a massive fireball from the back and scorching the sofa. The video you are about to see will absolutely shock you.
Without warning, his laptop exploded. One moment he's playing video games, the next moment he's almost burnt to a crisp as massive fireballs blast from the cooling vents on the side of his laptop. The sofa is ruined and both Johnson and his friend are stunned. The fire soon ended as Johnson put the flames out, but the laptop wasn't done with him. This was only the beginning...
And It Didn't End There
Shocked and (understandably) a little bit terrified, Johnson rushed to blow the flames out. He then took the laptop outside and put it on a glass table, assuming the worst was over. Wrong! Seconds later, a series of three huge blasts blew apart the laptop and almost caught Johnson in the crossfire.
Even though he's nervous, Johnson clearly assumes the worst of it is over. Unfortunately, Johnson is completely wrong. As he turns to go away, the laptop fires again. And again. And again. Three huge blasts come out in quick succession, tearing apart what little remains of the device. This time, Johnson is so close to the laptop that he very nearly gets caught in the crossfire, once again. Words can barely describe the scene - hold on tight and you'll get to watch this insane video.
Devon Johnson isn't the only one to have suffered from exploding technology - or as we like to call it, The Rise Of The Machines. The problem is with the highly volatile Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) batteries that power these devices and others like smartphones, digital cameras, and even electric cars. Too hot? Boom. Punctured? Boom. Charged the wrong way? Boom. Manufacturing defe- BOOM.
Lithium-Ion batteries are packed full of chemical energy, more so than traditional batteries. That's why they're used for these kind of high-powered devices, where space is at a premium. But mishandling of them - even short circuiting the terminals, which can happen with smaller spare batteries - can have deadly consequences. For current purposes, they're probably the best technology we have. But at what cost?
How Dell Responded
The manufacturer of Johnson's laptop, Dell, has been fully aware of the problem for a decade. In 2006, it was forced to recall over four million "at-risk" batteries, and had to set up exchange booths in airports when airlines refused to fly passengers with Li-ion powered devices. And as users of the unintentionally deadly Samsung Galaxy Note 7 will know, this is not an isolated case. Yet Dell is still trying to avoid blame for this incident, only saying that it will "conduct a complete investigation to validate its origin and understand its full history."
When they were first rolled out, laptops used Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cad) batteries, which provided more than enough power for those low-consumption models. However, they also suffered from a memory effect, where incorrect charging could lead to drastically shortened battery life. Around the 90s, these batteries were slowly replaced by Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) batteries, which could cope with new demands and didn't suffer from the same problems. However, they eventually couldn't keep up with the new processor speeds and power consumption of today's models, and by the mid to late 2000s, Lithium-Ion was king.
What You Can Do To Avoid It
Since major companies are doing nothing to fix the problem, it's time to take some preventative measures yourself. Always charge Li-ion powered devices on a flat, hard surface, so the heat can dissipate properly, and never leave it charging once the battery is full, or overnight. Finally, always treat your laptop and phone very, very carefully. Or, like this insane video shows, your quiet night at home might turn into one very impromptu barbecue party.
Several people have had their e-cigarettes explode while in their pockets, and one unlucky soul blew out seven teeth when his vaper exploded while he was smoking it. Hoverboard batteries keep blowing up, which sounds like a cool futuristic sentence we never thought we'd say, but wasn't so much for the person riding the thing. A pair of headphones nearly took off someone's head in another incident on a plane, risking not only their life but the lives of everyone else on board.
How Dangerous Are These, Exactly?
So you'd think with all these grim statistics, Li-Ion batteries are pretty much the world's greatest ill, the true evil that we should all band together to vanquish. And yes, when handled incorrectly, they are pretty dangerous. The smaller and cheaper they get, too, the less material there is keeping the electrodes from touching, and the less safety regulations are followed, and the closer we get to certain doom.
But given how many consumer electronics are used every day, the incredible rise of digital cameras, smart phones, drones, and so many other gadgets, it's really a wonder we don't blow ourselves up more often. With all the billions of devices in use, in fact, the rate of incidence is pretty low. Like sharks or Borgs, they might seem terrifying, but in reality you're more likely to be killed by a falling coconut.
Like most retailers of LI-Ion powered devices, the manufacturer of Johnson's laptop, Dell, has been fully aware of the problem for a decade. In 2006, it was forced to recall over four million "at-risk" batteries, and had to set up exchange booths in airports when airlines refused to fly passengers with Li-ion powered devices. And as users of the unintentionally deadly Samsung Galaxy Note 7 will know, this is not an isolated case.
Yet Dell is still trying to avoid blame for this incident. Soon after the case came to light, they released a statement saying that it will "conduct a complete investigation to validate its origin and understand its full history." In other words, they would sit and their hands and hope that they could blame Devon Johnson for charging it wrong. Not the most original response, but sadly, it'll probably work.
Devon Doesn't Seem To Mind
Brush with death aside, Devon Johnson seemed to take the whole ordeal in his stride. He may have burnt down his home, and both he and his friend might have lost a couple of limbs to a computer, but all in all he's pretty nonchalant about the affair. His only real response was that he was "pretty relieved". He's probably more upset that it interrupted his gaming.
Which is understandable. Devon is 18 years old, and fairly used to this kind of thing. Not the exploding part, of course, but the technology failing people. We've got so many devices these days, and our expectations have been lowered so far, that if one of them screws up or breaks, we just shrug our shoulders and buy another. It's no big deal - but it is a pretty great story.
Will Batteries Get Safer?
For now, Lithium-Ion looks like it's going to stay for a while. It has the power-to-area ratio that no other batteries can really stack up to, and it's got more than enough punch to handle today's devices. Sure, only being able to run an iPhone for only a day seems pretty pathetic, but if you consider the sheer computing power that's going on under the hood, it's not half bad.
There are, as always, other technologies being considered (and if you believe the conspiracy nut jobs, Apple is deliberately holding back free energy tech for the sake of $$$). But most of the new technology is focused on refining and slightly enhancing Li-Ion, not on replacing it outright. And just like Lithium-Ion, these new technologies will have all the same safety issues and problems. We demand more powerful goods at cheaper, and there's only one thing companies can do: cut corners.
What You Can Do To Avoid It
Since major companies are doing nothing to fix the problem, and we can't control consumer demand, it's time to take some preventative measures yourself. It may sound like hard work, but it could save your life. Follow these three weird tricks, and we can almost 100% guarantee that your batteries won't engulf you in some massive inferno.
Number 1: always charge Li-ion powered devices on a flat, hard surface, so the heat can dissipate properly, and never leave it charging once the battery is full, or overnight. Number 3: If you're carrying small spare batteries, keep them separated, away from metallic objects, and preferably in their own case. Finally, always treat your laptop and phone very, very carefully. Or, like this insane video shows, your quiet night at home might turn into one very impromptu barbecue party.