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Samsung Galaxy Note 7: battery explosion cause has probably just been found

An independent engineering company launched an investigation into the cause of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7's battery explosions and came across a big flaw in the design of the smartphone.  Did Samsung push too far and compromise safety in the name of innovation? Read on to find out what the company saw when they took a closer look inside the Note 7.

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Samsung hasn't officially revealed the cause of the Note 7 explosions yet. At first, Samsung said faulty batteries were responsible. Even after exchanging the batteries the problem didn't go away. In October, Samsung pulled the smartphone from the market entirely. Since then, the company hasn't said much. However, they are planning to officially reveal the reasons why they believe the devices were exploding by the end of 2016, as has been previously reported by AndroidPIT .

Independent expert investigation

The American engineering company, Instrumental, conducted its own investigation and has published its results. The company specializes in the analysis of production processes and helps to identify possible problems. During its investigations, it found a weakness that is the likely cause of the disaster: even during the course of normal operation, the design can compress the battery.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Southwest The Verge 840x560
A brand new Galaxy Note 7. / © The Verge

Pressure is a major problem. To understand why, we must understand how the battery is designed. To put it simply, there are two layers, positive and negative, kept apart by two separator layers in the middle. If the positive and negative layers touch, the energy flow and heat leads to an explosion. If you put pressure on the battery's important separator layers, even through just normal use and mechanical swell, it can explode. Samsung says these separator layers may have been thin to begin with due to aggressive manufacturing parameters.

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In addition to the separator layers being thin, the battery may not have had room for usual mechanical swell. The smartphone was designed without enough ceiling room for the 5.2 mm battery to swell in its 5.2 mm pocket. Instrumental says it should have been given a 0.5 mm ceiling to expand into. The company said, "This is what mechanical engineers call line-to-line – and since it breaks such a basic rule, it must have been intentional".

instrumental galaxy note 7 battery
Not enough space for the Note 7's battery. / © Instrumental

Instrumental suspects that if the Note 7 hadn't been recalled, the natural expansion of the battery would have caused the devices to slowly push themselves apart. Therefore, the only option left for Samsung would have been to install a smaller battery in the Note 7, which would obviously sacrifice some battery capacity.

It is clear from the results of the investigation that Samsung installed too large of a battery in too small of a space. Why did Samsung's designers not leave enough room for the battery? Instrumental says that the design reveals "an intellectual tension between safety and pushing the boundaries." 

If the results of this investigation are correct, then the whole debacle was caused solely by this particular flaw. Whether or not Samsung will put the phone back on the market with a smaller battery, only time will tell. Given the damage to the brand thus far, it is unlikely.

Would you want a Note 7 with a smaller battery? Do you trust Samsung enough to still buy their products?

Source: Instrumental

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