Lithium-ion batteries have been flirting with spontaneous combustion recently, most notoriously when packaged in Dell laptops. Technophiles, journalists, and bloggers shower us with gleeful coverage of burned-up trucks, Christmas presents gone awry, and the potential danger of airplane computing.
Why's this happening? As we demand more power from our increasingly tiny electrical devices, batteries must shrink while storing more energy. Small container + lots of energy = instability. Lithium-ion batteries' potent combination of carbon, oxygen, and a flammable lithium electrolyte are a poaching ground for fire--one spark and the battery, when charged, can ignite. Mechanical malfunction, manufacturing error, or exposure to very high temperatures can cause (thankfully rare) internal fires.
But we won't stop using Li-Ion batteries, because they are lightweight, low-maintenance, and one of the longest-lasting batteries made. Take me: the idea of losing round-the-clock access to my palm-sized cell phone, iPod, or wireless Internet connection (all run on lithium-ion batteries--I checked) terrifies me. What if that guy calls? What if I can't listen to music on my commute? What if I miss a last-minute appointment? What if something happens??
And it's not just me. Everyone I know must be instantly available. If my cousin doesn't pick up her phone, my friends aren't online, my grandmother doesn't answer my e-mail, my best friend doesn't text me good night, then something's wrong. I panic.
We've condemned ourselves to 24-hour connectivity, in business and in our personal lives. And if flaming laptops are the result, well, so be it. I can handle a blaze. The fire department's on my speed dial.
Feed your connection addiction: read up on Actiontec's VoSKY Call Center, which integrates cell phone, land line, and Internet calls via free Skype software.