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Cellphones Hardware

Exploding Cell Phone Battery Kills 287

LingNoi writes "A man in Korea was found dead at his workplace Wednesday morning and his mobile phone battery was melted in his shirt pocket. No one knows for sure yet but a doctor who examined the body said, "He sustained an injury that is similar to a burn in the left chest and his ribs and spine were broken" We have heard of other dangerous battery products here on Slashdot." Update: 11/30 17:34 GMT by Z : Turns out the melted battery was the least of his worries; he was actually hit by a truck.
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Exploding Cell Phone Battery Kills

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  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @12:46PM (#21506087) Homepage Journal

    An LG official confirmed its product was involved in the accident but said the company would not comment directly on the accident because the cause was not confirmed. However, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to company policy, said such a fatal explosion would be virtually impossible.

    I'd like to know just how big that battery was.

    Kim Hoon, a doctor who examined the body, said the death was probably caused by an explosion of the battery. "He sustained an injury that is similar to a burn in the left chest and his ribs and spine were broken," Yonhap news agency quoted Kim as saying.

    Broken ribs and spine? Ok, this man was found in his workplace (a quarry.) Isn't reasonable to assume something else broke those ribs and spine and whatever did that also damaged the phone and battery?

    The cell in my Razr could probably take off a finger or two if it exploded from pressure, but a spine is a rather hard thing to break, let alone ribs, unless this was a very, very small man.

    This sounds like something from The Weekly World News, the Sun or News of the World.

    Next on Fantastic Nooz: Scientist proves earth was created by asteroid collision with Moon, not the other way around. IAU rocked by the revelation and immediately reinstates Pluto as a full-fledged planet, with all rights and privileges. "Smaller bodies should have rights!", proclaim cosmologists.

    • by HTTP Error 403 403.9 ( 628865 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @12:49PM (#21506131)
      In Korea, exploding cellphones are only for old people.
    • by fireboy1919 ( 257783 ) <> on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @12:52PM (#21506191) Homepage Journal
      ...unless this was a very, very small man.
      His job in the quarry was to hunt rats. He has a tiny spear, and special shirt with a gigantic (for him) pocket sown into the back to carry his cellphone, which is essentially the largest thing he carries.

      Did I mention that he's a minature dwarf spider monkey? Hmm...probably not important.
    • by Ogive17 ( 691899 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @12:54PM (#21506229)
      I'd have to agree with you. It doesn't seem that the mass of a battery (or a cell phone in general) would be high enough to do the damage described in the article.

      Maybe the cell phone battery exploded, he started to panic because it burned, and he fell on a table edge and broke is back.. ribs break easily so just a normal fall could cause that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ByOhTek ( 1181381 )
      Very good analysis. The doctor most likely does not understand the tech involved in a cell phone battery to determine that it could explode like that.

      Given pictures/videos of exploding laptop batteries that have been shown in the past, I'm not sure one of those could even break the spine through the chest of a small child let alone adult. And using the worst case against my argument, even the larger cell phones out there (such as blackberrys, and iPhones) are the size of laptop batteries and smaller. Even i
    • "Broken ribs and spine? Ok, this man was found in his workplace (a quarry.) Isn't reasonable to assume something else broke those ribs and spine and whatever did that also damaged the phone and battery?"

      He probably fell after it exploded. Unfortunately, the article's not too clear on that.

      "He sustained an injury that is similar to a burn in the left chest and his ribs and spine were broken," Yonhap news agency quoted Kim as saying.

      "It is presumed that pressure caused by the explosion damaged his heart and lungs, leading to his death," it quoted him as saying.

      I'll grant you that where they slipped it in is confusing, but the doctor doesn't mention the ribs or spine.

      • He probably fell after it exploded.

        I have to agree with you analysis, except which occurred first? Was the phone smashed in the fall causing the burning battery, or did a burning battery cause the fall.

        It would be very easy to fall 50 feet onto the cell phone, but unless the cell phone was trapped against his body by something stronger than his ribs, or flew 50 feet away, even if it was hydrogen that went nuclear in their, it would have had to throw pieces of the phone a long ways to balance this force nee

    • by cromar ( 1103585 )
      Actually, ribs are very easy to break. It's almost as easy as snapping a pencil...
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Smidge204 ( 605297 )
        Have you been drinking enough Malk?

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by cromar ( 1103585 )
          LOL :) Let me put it another way: these boards [] are all harder to break than ribs are, yet someone without much training (beyond how to keep their wrists straight while punching) can usually learn to break a board in 2-3 punches, in my experience. This article [] explains a bit about the physics of punching.
    • Actually (Score:5, Funny)

      by Poromenos1 ( 830658 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @01:01PM (#21506369) Homepage

      unless this was a very, very small man.
      He was actually found in the pocket of another, normal-sized man.
    • by harrkev ( 623093 ) <kfmsd AT harrelsonfamily DOT org> on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @01:01PM (#21506375) Homepage
      I have read (note that I am not a chemist) that the energy density of a lithium battery is close to that of the explosive in a grenade. The difference is that the grenade releases its energy all at one, while a lithium battery deliveres it a little at a time over hours/days (if all goes well).

      Note that I said energy density. This takes into account the volume, and cell phone batteries are rather small. So a cell phone battery will have a lot less energy than a grenade, just because it is smaller.

      A quick google search turned up this link. Search down for the word "grenade": []

      OK. I admit that this is not an authoritative source. But, look here: []

      The energy density of some explosives is about twice (when compared on terms of weight, not volume) that of a Lithium-ion battery. Once you add the weight of the metal around the explosive, it seems reasonable.
      • Interesting info!

        Also, one of my pet peeves with 'snopes' is that they say that cell phones can't/don't cause gasoline vapour to explode [], however their analysis and science behind the statements is based on the theory that the only way for this to happen is for the radio signals to cause some sort of spark.

        However we all know that improperly charged NiCd and Lithium ion batteries can explode by themselves - what happens if your cell phone explodes when you are at the gas pump filling your card with gas?

        • by harrkev ( 623093 )
          Don't be too hard on them for that. Batteries exploding is still very rare. When it happens, it makes the news. The odds of any person's phone exploding is extremely low. The odds of that happening during the 10 minutes a week when they are filling up is negligible.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by zippthorne ( 748122 )
          Nothing. Mythbusters actually did good work on this one. You've got to have the fuel-air mix just right, or even a spark plug won't light it. There are really only two places where the cell could ignite fumes. One is right next to the fuel port, and the other is on the ground in a puddle of gasoline.

          Both assume that you're pretty sloppy with the nozzle. Like Zoolander sloppy. There's supposed to be a vapor hood over it for pollution reduction, which would also reduce the fuel in the air around the noz
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          However - we cannot always rely on Snopes - []
        • Most likely because Snopes doesn't deal with theoretical "What if" situations much. Now if someone actually had a phone explode while pumping gas, they would probably address this. The thing that Snopes is claiming about cellphones is that so far there hasn't been a single case where a cell phone has been proven to spark the gas vapors. There have been a few cases where explosions have happened while people were talking on a cell phone, but the cause in each case was determined to be static electricity disc
        • by mikael ( 484 )
          However their analysis and science behind the statements is based on the theory that the only way for this to happen is for the radio signals to cause some sort of spark.

          I'd hate to be next to a gas station when there's a thunderstorm. I'm amazed that they don't all go popping like firecrackers every summer.
    • by secPM_MS ( 1081961 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @01:08PM (#21506471)
      I agree. I think we have two coupled events here:


      The phone battery failed causing him to fall or get in the way of something, resulting in the broken ribs and spine.


      He fell or was stuck, resulting in the broken ribs and spine. The impact caused the phone battery to fail.

      2 seems far more likely than 1. Having a battery blow up in a shirt pocket and leaving a burn on my chest is not going to break my spine. An explosion in my shirt pocket that is powerful enough to break my spine is also going to blow my chest tissue off, blow my ribs into my lungs and heart, and do a lot of other damage.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      This sounds like something from The Weekly World News, the Sun ...

      [Sigh] And we don't even get photos of space alien offspring or a page three girl.
    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @02:14PM (#21507415) Homepage Journal
      In June a Chinese man named Xiao Jinpeng was killed by an exploding battery in a Motorola phone (

      At the time, this was the sixth documented cell phone explosion in two years for China.

      As I pointed out in another post, an 1100 maH battery packs more than enough energy to kill a man, especially by injury to the heart. In rare cases even a baseball striking the chest can result in cardiac arrest. An exploding cell phone could pack a considerable wallop, maybe not enough to kill you if you had it on your hip, but certainly enough to kill you if you carried it on your chest.
      • by Fizzl ( 209397 ) <fizzl AT fizzl DOT net> on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @03:12PM (#21508137) Homepage Journal
        ...Aaaaand the cells are not usually packed in container suitable for compressing combustion into actual explosion. What you get is a nasty chemical fire which is virtually inextinguishtable in the time it releases its energy.

        There's no way a LiPo cell in plastic packaging could explode with considerable force.

        I build my own RC airplane batteries. I have right now 50 x 2400mAh cells at home. I have experimented shorting fast discharging cells. I have tried puncturing them. I have tried over charging them. I have tried deforming them. Yes, you get spectacular fireworks, but no explosions in conventional containers.

        If I _wanted_ to explode one, I probably could. But I would seal the cell in sharpnel grenade style iron shell or something...

        PS. Discard your Li* battery if it ever puffs even slightly or gets a visible deformation from a shock. Damaged Li*'s are unstable.
    • by Se7enLC ( 714730 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @03:03PM (#21508031) Homepage Journal
      A second doctor who could not be reached for comment concluded that the injuries sustained were consistent with those caused by leaving an electric fan [] on while sleeping.
  • differences (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @12:48PM (#21506105)
    The difference between real media and slashdot:

    "Exploding cell phone battery may have killed South Korean man: officials"
    "Exploding Cell Phone Battery Kills"

    Can anyone spot the difference in the meanings?
    • Re:differences (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dintech ( 998802 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @12:50PM (#21506155)
      And be sure to click a few ads on your way out...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by noidentity ( 188756 )
      They just left off the end of the headline. It could have been "Exploding Cell Phone Battery Kills?" or even "Exploding Cell Phone Battery Kills: 0" Give the hard-working Slashdot editors the benefit of the
    • by $1uck ( 710826 )
      Honestly I don't see the difference between the too, because I read them the same way. Any time I read or hear something second hand, I know for a fact that the information is being relayed to me through an unreliable and prejudiced device known as a human.

      So maybe to you those headlines mean to different things to me they mean one thing: someone somewhere thinks a cellphone battery killed someone.

      I'm inclined to think that person is an idiot.
    • a few CNN headlines for fun...

      # Hunt for missing wife focuses on blue barrel
      Police officer's wife found in blue barrel, barrel lost.

      # CNN/YouTube debate to be circusy smackdown
      CNN + YouTube sponsoring Clown Wrestling Federation

      # Vick to pay $1 million for dog care
      Dog fighting man buys expensive poodle

      # Israel, Palestinians: Peace is possible
      Pease agreements signed by Israel and Palestinians

      # Deputies killed by fellow officer in chase
    • One is fun and annoys people who lack a sense of humor, the other is not and does not.

      Go read some boring news site like cnn for the fake objectivity you treasure so much.
  • by InvisblePinkUnicorn ( 1126837 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @12:48PM (#21506123)
    So it did nothing more than cause a burn on his chest, but the pressure was high enough to break his ribs and spine? Does anything seem odd about this?
    • by matria ( 157464 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @12:56PM (#21506251)
      More likely a fall, which broke the ribs and spine and damaged the phone which "exploded". My husband fell in a similar situation, landed on his left side, but had his large walkie-talkie in his pocket. It cracked his ribs and destroyed the walkie-talkie; the fall would have smashed his ribs if he hadn't had it in his pocket.
      • by interiot ( 50685 )
        I think we have a winner for the most reasonable explanation for this otherwise implausible story.
      • by jez9999 ( 618189 )
        My husband fell in a similar situation, landed on his left side, but had his large walkie-talkie in his pocket. It cracked his ribs and destroyed the walkie-talkie; the fall would have smashed his ribs if he hadn't had it in his pocket.

        What? Was his walkie-talkie made out of foam, or something?
  • by UncleWilly ( 1128141 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {70ylliWelcnU}> on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @12:49PM (#21506133)
    Just in time for Christmas!
    Kevlar-Asbestos Universal Cell Phone Carrier
    $29.99 plus S&H
  • by sokoban ( 142301 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @12:49PM (#21506137) Homepage
    He had one of those phones you shake to see how much liquid is in them, which indicates battery life. His was empty, so he filled it up with gasoline.
  • Heck, even post notes that "No one knows for sure yet..."
    • by PhxBlue ( 562201 )

      Yes. Or "apparently kills." Saying the cellphone battery killed the man -- without a disclaimer word such as "apparently" or "allegedly" -- sets Slashdot up for a libel suit from the cell phone manufacturer if they lose sales as a result of the /. article and investigation finds it wasn't the cell phone battery.

      This is one good reason why anyone who calls himself a journalist should know one of the major wire services' stylebooks, e.g., the Associated Press Stylebook, inside and out. It's handy for lit

  • Fan? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ecuador ( 740021 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @12:50PM (#21506167) Homepage
    Are we certain he was not in a closed room with a fan []?
    • Interesting, but I'm very confused by this [], saying that the government has warned that having a fan on in the summer can lead to hypothermia. Is this for real? I've slept all night with a fan trained on me (cheaper than air conditioning) on hot days for years, and I'm pretty sure I've never died of hypothermia.

      To me, that passage reads like the US government issuing a report stating that people should not go to Lover's Lane because visits to makeout points lead to a disproportionate number of incidents wher
      • Yeah, it's a very common belief over there apparently. They even sell special fans that have timers to turn themselves off in case you fall asleep with them on. It's also been reported that the newspapers over there run stories fairly often blaming deaths on people who fell asleep with fans running.
  • by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @12:52PM (#21506185) Journal
    The guy worked in a quarry. He's found with broken ribs and a broken spine. Having suffered broken ribs and a broken spine, myself, I can say that it takes an *enormous* amount of force to do that. If the cellphone had exploded with sufficient force to break vertebrae, there'd be a big hole where his chest was and no sign of the cellphone.
    Much, much more likely is that he was struck by something large, that broke his back and ribs, and also crushed the cellphone, rupturing the battery compartment and making the battery melt from short-circuiting itself.

    People killed by dynamite blasts don't have broken vertebrae, even when the shock wave has torn their hearts loose from their arteries.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Saxerman ( 253676 ) *
      So now we got a huge guy theory, and a serial crusher theory. Top notch.
      • >So now we got a huge guy theory, and a serial crusher theory.

        I've had dates like that.
      • by t0rkm3 ( 666910 )
        But he's really smart, this serial crusher, so he takes out the guy with the head wound first figuring that the other guy's going no where.
    • People killed by dynamite blasts don't have broken vertebrae, even when the shock wave has torn their hearts loose from their arteries.
      Wow, that's enough to make my cheerios turn sour. That's almost as bad as "unplugging" in motorcycle accidents, where the neck is not capable of supporting the deceleration of the head plus helmet, thus the body remains with the bike at the point of impact while the head goes flying.

      The human body has some really squicky failure modes.
  • by 4D6963 ( 933028 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @12:53PM (#21506201)

    Laptop batteries, and now cell phone batteries? Just wait until pacemaker batteries start to explode..

  • It is also possible that he was struck by a piece of heavy equipment, which, in addition to breaking his spine and ribs, also ruptured the cell phone battery. The ruptured battery then shorted out and melted.

    I find it very difficult to believe that a cell phone battery could contain sufficient pressure break a person's spine and ribs. Unless, of course, said battery was packed with explosives. (And yes, this has been done before - by the Israelis).

    • (And yes, this has been done before - by the Israelis)
      I'm assuming that this is the part that caused the parent to be modded "Flamebait". But if it's true, can that be? If it's a factual statement that contains no political innuendo, than how can it be "Flamebait" except to people whit exceptionally thin skin (in which case they shouldn't be surfing Slashdot anyway)?
      • First clue, no link to prove it. Second clue, totally unrelated to the story. Third clue, wrapping explosives around a cellphone won't do shit. Fourth clue, cellphones as part of a remote detonator system have been used widely, by terrorists. They are highly unreliable, why should one of the most advanced military forces use it? There are better methods.

        It is probably flamebait because of the way he mentions it. Trying to inject an unrelated matter into the discussion.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )
      Well, I'm sure a good sized cell phone battery has the energy to do this kind of damage; 1100 maH is enough energy to lift a 300 pound weight almost ten feet. The problem is coaxing the thing to give up that energy fast enough and in just the right way.

      If you asked me, in absence of any other evidence, whether such an explanation were likely, I'd say off the cuff, no. If the injuries were consistent with an exploding cell battery, if there were no other injuries, and if the circumstances in which he was f
  • by Bluesman ( 104513 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @12:54PM (#21506225) Homepage
    The answer is, he was hit forcefully on the back with a club made of ice, which shattered. He fell on one of the shattered pieces, piercing the cell phone battery causing it to melt. The ice melted, leaving no evidence of what had happened...

  • Also today (Score:5, Funny)

    by moogied ( 1175879 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @01:00PM (#21506355)
    A man was found dead in Canada. He died from apparent bullet wounds to the skull.

    Police have a sony laptop in custody.

  • by oman_ ( 147713 )
    This is CERTAINLY a virus sent by the North Korean government.


  • We've heard of cell-phone bombs before, with an explosive device taking the place of part of the battery, but they are usually used to deliver a killing blow to the victim's head, not chest. They were also more practical before the phones got quite as small as they are now.

    This is just silly. The guy got killed, and his phone got smashed too.


  • by athloi ( 1075845 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @01:01PM (#21506381) Homepage Journal
    In the future: hackers find out that re-programming a phone to radically fluctuate its power consumption in the same pattern that in flashing lights induces seizures in gamers, within five minutes, causes the battery to detonate and eliminate the target.

    Five minutes later, government denies it has *ever* heard of such a thing, and it would never do it, even if it knew how.

    Five minutes later, the reporter who broke the story dies in a mysterious cell phone explosion.

  • Note to Manufacturing:

    Take the semtex out of the battery casing and blame any problems on China. Sorry guys, but that's the wrong kind of plastic.

  • Start keeping my cell phone in a co-worker's pocket...
  • by isa-kuruption ( 317695 ) <kuruption@kurupti o n . net> on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @01:07PM (#21506465) Homepage
    For every force, there is an equal and opposite force...

    So the exploded battery broke his ribs and spine, but couldn't muster enough force to rip the shirt pocket? Give me a break.
  • Phone explosion was probably caused by some 50-ton rock hitting the guy in the chest. I don't see how anything as small as a phone battery could shatter ribs unless it was traveling at a tremendous rate of speed, i.e. if someone replaced his battery with c-4 and detonated it, then maybe.
  • It's difficult to believe that a telephone battery could store enough energy to do that much damage. They tend to get hot, then the plastic softens and releases the pressure. Ask anyone who blows up batteries for kicks :)

    It's much more plausible -- especially in a quarry, where there tend to be things like explosives, heavy plant and big lumps of rock -- that some other accident broke his ribs and spine, and did for his mobe at the same time.
  • I hear the FBI can make that happen remotely. ;-)
  • ...that if indeed the 'melting/exploding battery' came _first_, then he likely snapped his OWN ribs and spine reacting to it. i've seen such things come from grand mal seizures, and the involuntary muscle spasms that would come from such surprising agony right over one's heart could more than cause such breakages.

  • I am certainly no physicist (I took a year of high school physics and watch a lot of Mythbusters -- that's the extent of my education in this area), but it seems to me that he would have had to be wearing a suit of armor. Let's assume (wrongly, but for sake of argument) that the phone could blow up with enough force to break his spine from the front. If I understand how it all works (and again, see my credentials above and add grain of salt), he'd either have to be wearing a suit of armor to contain the bla
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      It may not be likely, but it is possible, perhaps he was laying on his desk for a nap... or leaning against a filing cabinet?
      not to mention fluid dynamics and pneumatics can do some very interesting thing with the force of a blast. This combined with possible poor nutrition / calcium deficiency could allow the breaks in the spine.

      Not to mention, while mythbusters may be interesting they are _NOT_ very scientific, they are a TV show and they miss quite a few possibilities. That said much of what they d
    • Re:Newton's Laws? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @02:14PM (#21507425) Journal
      Yes, you're not quite right. The magnitude of the force depends on the distance over which it is applied. Since the phone is restricted in one direction by your body, and not so much the other direction (by a flimsy shirt) the force on you is much greater.

      The momentum of the phone itself is enough. Go down to the range and practice shooting. Feel all that recoil, despite the fact that the bullet is completely unrestrained in the other direction, and a bullet has a lot less mass than the gun does.

      Now in a powerful explosion, the phone's gonna shoot off pretty fast. In some cases fast enough to rip through the shirt once it gets far enough that it takes up all the slack. Which brings to mind the question: how strong was that shirt? If it was strong enough, perhaps some kind of reinforced shirt or something, the hoop stress would be supported by the guy's back, so the shirt itself could maybe be the thing that broke the spine, rather than the shockwave. If that's the case, then there is also an easy solution: breakaway pockets.

      I'm not sure that an explosion powerful enough to break the spine would also break the shirt, because I don't know how powerful an explosion would do either. Ribs are pretty easy to crack, though. You can do it just by punching someone hard, and you will crack some if you ever have to do CPR.
  • This article is making me seriously reconsider my current strategy of keeping my cell phone in my pants....
    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )
      If this is true it means... that cell phone batteries are some of the safest devices on the planet.

      Ah, that doesn't sound nearly as interesting.
  • An LG Phone huh? That's interesting.

    *checks shirt pocket and sees an LG VX8350*

    Ahhhhhh!!!!!!! *boom!*
  • I'll guarantee you the battery didn't cause it. Someone posted two scenarios, iand mentioned the second as the most plausible. I don't think he gave enough thought to his first scenario, which could've well played out as:

    Man's sweat shorts phone contacts (considering how crappily those phones are built, no surprise) battery causes a burn, man falls and breaks his spine and ribs.

    BTW, an EXPLOSION should be audible enough for anyone to hear. Even lithium batteries losing containment and burning make a nice so
  • by gringer ( 252588 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @04:25PM (#21509189)
    An incident [] similar to this (resulting in illness, rather than death) happened in New Zealand recently.

    I thought something had fallen off a table but there was a foul stink. I woke up and realised the room was very smoky and there was a very strong smell of electrical burning.... It had fallen onto the floor in three pieces. There were burn patches on the carpet so it looked like the phone had jumped from one spot to another.
    Given comments about cellphones being a bit like grenades, the way he dealt with the situation was entirely reasonable. He threw the (grenade|battery) out the window before it could do more damage.

"Let every man teach his son, teach his daughter, that labor is honorable." -- Robert G. Ingersoll