The scientists claim that the early warning system uses a very thin copper sensor deposited on top of a conventional battery separator.
The use of such a device is clear, following a recent accident where a person’s smartphone burst into flames while she was using it.
Yi Cui, associate professor of materials science at Stanford, said: “Our goal is to create an early warning system that saves lives and property. The system can detect problems that occur during the normal operation of a battery, but it does not apply to batteries damaged in a collion or other incident.”
Last year Boeing grounded its 787 Dreamliner fleet after batteries caught fire. Then there was the famous incident in 2006 when a Dell notebook caught fire in Japan.
But while the odds of batteries catching fire are one in a million, said Cui, hundreds of millions of computers and smartphones are sold every year.
The smart separator will alert people when it’s time to change their batteries, just in case.