Lithium-ion batteries and aircraft have some bad blood: Boeing's 787 Dreamliners were grounded three years ago because of battery fires, the US FAA banned all lithium batteries in hold luggage, and now an innocent iPhone has caused a fire on an Alaska Air flight. According to a KOMO news report, a girl on a spring break flight from Washington State to Hawaii had her iPhone 6 spontaneously combust mid-air:
All of the sudden there was like 8-inch flames coming out of my phone, and I flipped it off onto the ground and it got under someone's seat, and the flames were just getting higher and a bunch of people stood up.
Under heavy loads or physical abuse, lithium-ion batteries have been known to explode, releasing the considerable stored energy inside in the form of heat, rather than electricity. It's the reason hoverboards — which contain cheap batteries that get stood on all day — catch fire (and have been banned by all major airlines), and the reason lithium-ion batteries are supposed to be carry-on only.
The airlines aren't likely to ban all portable electronics any time soon, but it's still a slightly scary reminder of how much potential energy we're all carrying round in our pockets. And, why airport security is really one big joke.
Image credit: KOMO News