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Exploding headphone battery burns woman during flight

By midian182 ยท 29 replies
Mar 15, 2017
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  1. It seems there are still rare instances of exploding batteries causing harm. Following the Galaxy Note 7 debacle last year and numerous examples of hoverboards catching fire, we’re now hearing of a woman whose battery-powered headphones exploded on her face while she slept during a flight.

    The unnamed Australian resident was traveling from Beijing to Melbourne on February 19. She was listening to music on her headphones when she fell asleep around two hours into the flight but was later woken by an explosion.

    “As I went to turn around I felt burning on my face. I just grabbed my face which caused the headphones to go around my neck,” she said in an Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) statement, which was issued today.

    "I continued to feel burning, so I grabbed them off and threw them on the floor. They were sparking and had small amounts of fire. As I went to stamp my foot on them the flight attendants were already there with a bucket of water to pour on them. They put them into the bucket at the rear of the plane.”

    Smoke from the device and the smell of burnt plastic, hair, and electronics are reported to have filled the cabin for the rest of the journey back to Australia. “People were coughing and choking the entire way home,” said the woman, who burned her face and hand during the incident.

    Some details, including the make of headphones, are unknown. The ATSB merely said the battery “likely caught fire.” The agency added: "As the range of products using batteries grows, the potential for in-flight issues increases."

    The ATSB has reminded passengers to carry batteries with them and not in their stowed luggage.

    Permalink to story.

  2. Puiu

    Puiu TS Evangelist Posts: 3,140   +1,566

    Another reason to buy wired headphones I guess
    EClyde, BSim500, MonsterZero and 4 others like this.
  3. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 4,448   +2,902

    Now you have to consider everything you have that uses batteries! With the potential hazards from Lithium-Ion batteries, it is a wonder that they are not being removed from the market until they can be made safer! 60 minutes showed the solution a few weeks ago ..... why on earth is it not being implemented?!?!?!
    EClyde likes this.
  4. Eric Mozzone

    Eric Mozzone TS Enthusiast Posts: 27   +19

    Most people don't know how to take care of their batteries. This is the problem. I'm sure those headphones were probably overcharged, left in extreme temperatures, got wet. Maybe even swollen. Who knows. There's so many factors that can cause those things to malfunction and cause a bad day.
  5. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,283

    How do you overcharge a battery with today's equipment, in today's equipment, assuming you've bought something reputable? I do agree with your statement about people not knowing the first thing about taking care of batteries.
    trgz and Reehahs like this.
  6. Trillionsin

    Trillionsin TS Evangelist Posts: 1,745   +360

    Isn't it also possible that the difference in altitude could cause the battery to swell?
    I wouldnt know, I'm really just asking.
  7. Eric Mozzone

    Eric Mozzone TS Enthusiast Posts: 27   +19

    Well, like charging it too soon. Charging a battery too often.
  8. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,283

    What kind of "trained" flight attendant throws water on smoldering electrical object in a pressurized cabin? Didn't she know about the onboard fire extinguishers stationed at her berth? She may as well poured out a bottle of plonk all over it. I'm not flying on Qantas again in a hurry if that's the way the cabin crews are trained... assuming it was Qantas that is.
  9. nismo91

    nismo91 TS Evangelist Posts: 968   +58

    My noise cancelling earbuds are only powered by a single AAA battery. It's dated I know, but I doubt it can light up something before it runs out of juice.

    I am actually curious as to what is the make and model of the headphone.

    I have to agree with skidmarks, modern electronics have their own charging protection. You'll have more risk of overcharging your regular nimh batteries than today's li-ion or li-po.
  10. noel24

    noel24 TS Evangelist Posts: 425   +324

    MonsterZero likes this.
  11. ikesmasher

    ikesmasher TS Evangelist Posts: 3,045   +1,377

    *insert fire mixtape joke here*
    MonsterZero and Reehahs like this.
  12. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,283

    If the battery and charger are of decent quality... shouldn't be a problem. Although there is the odd exception to the rule, there are also a lot of myths about modern Li-Ion batteries. Battery explosions these days are 99% of the time are down to user ignorance and careless mishandling.
  13. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,710   +990

    According to designers/marketing, people what "slim/light/stylish". Well if you want slim & light,
    that means something has to give. Li-Ion are LIGHT, but pack a punch in more ways than one.
    They are EXTREMELY temperamental! The least little flaw in a cell and BOOM! When you pack
    4,5,6 cells together and one has an issue, you end up with a cascade failure. That much energy
    packed in a small space is like a tiny bomb waiting to go off. I'm surprised as paranoid as airlines
    and security agencies are, they haven't banned anything with a Li-On battery on flights.
  14. Greg S

    Greg S TechSpot Staff Posts: 1,493   +436

    There is no solution other than removing the energy from the batteries to make them completely safe. The batteries themselves are extremely safe, it's how they are used that causes problems.
  15. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,710   +990

    Because to pack as much energy into a standard alkaline or similar battery, would require a LARGE amount of space, and at a minimum, DOUBLE the thickness of the phone, not to mention the weight penalty. The older
    battery packs in phones and other devices were nickel metal hydride battery, NiMH
    The problem with those were they were heavier, and, had a problem with what was called "memory". If the battery was say at 50%, and you charged it every night at 50%, eventually, the battery would start to fail at 50%.
    Li-On came along and fixed that, but the tradeoff is they can go BOOM, if the anode/cathode separator fails.
  16. MonsterZero

    MonsterZero TS Evangelist Posts: 535   +293

    What brand were these? iPods? We should ban the crap out of them faster than the Note 7.

    I mean who has time to legitimately research the problem? Lets ban it immediately so that it doesn't interfere with Samsungs sales numbers.
  17. ManuelV

    ManuelV TS Addict Posts: 113   +54

    The other day I stare at one battery, does that counts?
  18. Kenrick

    Kenrick TS Evangelist Posts: 630   +403

    Lot of sensational pictures but no mention of the headphone brand and model? must be a cheap battery powered Bluetooth found in aliexpress.
  19. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 2,007   +1,400

    I was thinking about this too when I came across that part of the article. Water and electrical fire = big no no. Although, would a Li battery fire be an electrical fire or a chemical reaction. Either way, water would be a bad choice.
  20. CloudCatcher

    CloudCatcher TS Member

    Actually, that would be a correct response, following procedure. The point being, that this was most likely a battery fire, not an electrical fire.
    If there are any flames present, those would normally first be extinguished using a Halon extinguisher. Next, if required, the battery or device should be doused with water. The water serves to cool the battery sufficiently to stop the thermal runaway.
    The next step would be to place the device in a metal bar box, and submerge it in more water.
    Skidmarksdeluxe and stewi0001 like this.
  21. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 4,448   +2,902

    Better put down that joint dude, you completely missed the point of the comment!
  22. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 4,448   +2,902

    Sorry, but you've been mislead. As the article on 60 minutes clearly showed, it is the intermediate covering between the layers that can be replaced and completely stop the reaction. Might want to check it out, it was a fascinating report. From appearances, this improvement is a modification of the original patent, which probably has it hung up in negotiations over rights and money ...... nothing else new under this sun!
  23. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 4,448   +2,902

  24. Igrecman

    Igrecman TS Maniac Posts: 243   +143

    When I predicted this would happen some day that someone would have awful face burns, I had people laugh at me here.
  25. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,283

    They've been known to catch fire in mid flight while being freighted. In fact an entire shipment of them was responsible for bringing down a commercial airliner due to catching fire, killing everyone on board. That happened a while back and although they are safer these days, they're still a mixture of volatile chemicals. That lady's accident could've been just a freak accident or her battery was previously abused... or she replaced it with a cheap, no name battery of unknown origins and no safety/false certification.

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