Amidst fresh recalls of laptop batteries, experts in portable electronics are exploring every alternative-and coming up empty-handed The recall of nearly six million Dell (Dell) and Apple (AAPL) laptop batteries brought to light what has long been the tech industry’s dirty little secret: The batteries that power our laptops, wireless phones, iPods, and cameras are potential incendiaries. The risk of your laptop bursting into flames is low, and it is much lower for other devices. But it is real, and it’s not going away. The lithium-ion batteries that came into widespread use in the late 1990s enabled a revolution in portable electronics by allowing a lot of power to be packed into a very small space. But if you overcharge them, or there is an electrical fault such as a short circuit, the chemicals sealed inside the battery cells can become an explosive fire waiting to ignite. SCIENCE LESSON. You may recall from chemistry class that lithium is a metal that burns spontaneously when exposed to air and explodes in the presence of water. Surprisingly, though, the lithium has little to do with the risks posed by batteries, since lithium is not normally present in its […]

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