The invention could detect short circuits at an early stage, which will allow users to avoid explosions or fire.
Rabat – Moroccan inventor Rachid Yazami is sharing with the world one of his recent inventions, a way to facilitate early detection of short circuits in batteries, that could save the lives of many.
The invention is a method that the Moroccan scientist developed to detect the early stages of short circuits inside phone batteries and other device batteries to avoid explosions and fire.
In an interview with Morocco World News, Yazami emphasized that the battery field still has no “reliable methods to detect early stages of short circuit inside the battery.” This inspired his invention.
Before detailing his invention, the scientist provided technical insight into how an explosion or a short circuit could occur.
Yazami agrees that the quality of a battery plays a crucial role, but even good quality batteries could be a threat.
“Batteries are energy storage and conversion systems. Basically they convert chemical energy to electrical energy during discharge. Vice-versa, during charge, you convert electric energy to chemical energy and you do that through many cycles,” Yazami explained, introducing their basic functioning.
Speaking of the characteristics of lithium batteries, the expert explained that such batteries store a large volume of energy in very small, light batteries.
The term experts use to describe the characteristic is “energy density of lithium ion batteries, which is the highest in the world in the battery field. This is why they are very popular in cell phones in the electric mobility and energy storage systems.”
It is normal that batteries lose charge when they are used for several hours.
The situation which casts doubt about a particular device is when a loss in charge happens very fast, which results in heat generation.
Yazami explained that heat generation sometimes translates to increasing the internal pressure “inside the battery and there is flammable gas called the solvent of electrolytes that ignites and starts a fire or explosion.”
The scientist said that there could be many reasons for this type of explosion. One is if the users are relying on an inappropriate “charger that does not have probes to check on the battery’s temperature and also of the voltages of the cell.”
Yazami argued that if the users are overcharging and they are not controlling the temperature, the battery could catch fire because of a low quality charger. His invention would help mitigate such occurrences by allowing users to monitor overheating independently.
The award-winning expert explained that the most common cause of batteries catching fire is due to an “internal defect in the battery that can grow as you are charging and discharging [the] battery in time.”
How short circuits occur
Yazami also took MWN on a journey to explore the structure of batteries from the inside.
Batteries consist of two electrodes: Cathodes (positive) and anodes (negative).
“Inside the batteries, you have membranes that separate the two parts. Otherwise, instead of having an electric current that goes outside the battery, it will happen inside. And this will be called [an] internal short circuit,” Yazami warned.
He explained that the short circuit could start on a small level, which would make its detection difficult.
“The short circuit current is very low and that can be impossible [to] detect either by measuring the voltage of the battery or measuring the temperature.”
The separator between the two structures could melt due to high temperatures.
As it melts, the contact surface between anodes and cathodes increases and as a result the short circuit current increases, too.
“When the temperature gets higher, the evaporation of organic liquid is higher. Suddenly [the] battery releases gases. Once these gases [make] contact with air, the battery catches fire.”
The event could go so far to cause an explosion with the potential to claim several lives. This is where Yazami’s invention comes into play.
Early stage detection is important
The Moroccan scientist explained that he developed a method to enable people to detect very early stages of internal short circuits.
“I have a system consisting of a chip. This chip is inside the battery, and it collects data, like voltage temperature of the cell, and basically it converts the data to useful information to analyse the battery and compare to batteries that have no short circuit,” the inventor said.
The data collector shows signals and highlights the difference between the signals if the battery has a short circuit or has no circuit.
Morocco should ban imports from low quality markets
In Morocco, several incidents of explosion and fire from batteries have made international headlines. One of the recent incidents was in April 2020, when a student in the Fez-Meknes region was injured due to a phone explosion.
The phone exploded while charging as the student was using it for remote study due to the COVID-19-induced state of emergency.
In February, a5-year-old boy lost his life when an exploding phone charger caused a fire to engulf an apartment in the Tabriquet district of Sale, Rabat’s twin city.
In August 2019, a young girl named Hiba died inside an apartment fire in Sidi Alal Bahraoui near Rabat. An exploding phone charger caused the fire. Shocking videos and photos showing the girl trying to escape the burning building went viral.
Yazami acknowledged that the quality of battery chargers is very important.
“In China, they would produce low quality and they sell to countries in Africa for less than $2. That charger could trigger fire, because it does not meet the international standards,” Yazami said.
The expert explained that low-quality chargers could claim the lives of many people, saying “the situation is very severe.”
Yazami warned that Morocco’s authorities should take a decision to withdraw from markets of such devices that could pose a threat.
“They have to ban all these chargers, cheap ones that cost less than MAD 50 and consider them dangerous and should not allow them in.”
The scientist emphasized that experts in charge of controlling electrical devices and their entrance to the markets should know if they meet quality and safety standards.
Yazami’s invention will not only be helpful for preventing accidents related to low quality batteries but also for accidents related to those invented by respected companies in Japan, China, Korea, and the US.
Most of the devices sourced from legitimate companies, in Japan, Korea, the US, and even China have good quality batteries, as long as the user relies on the original charger. In such cases, the risk is very limited.
“Now what happens, in the course of battery aging or the system is aging, sometimes it happens that [the] membrane can break inside the cell and can trigger a short circuit, which could cause an explosion or fire,” Yazami explained.
The scientist said that his developed method could reduce the risk.
“My method could let people detect the short circuit in an early stage to help people stop using it” to avoid a tragedy. “My invention is for good quality chargers and batteries,” he added, indicating that even in the best-case-scenario, good devices degrade in quality over time and can still present risks.
A Fez native, Yazami is one of the world’s prominent leaders in the battery field.
The expert made a name for himself with a long list of awards for his innovations, including a prize he earned in February. The scientist received the Mohammed bin Rashid Medal for Scientific Excellence in the UAE.
Vice President and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid congratulated the Moroccan scientist on Twitter for his achievement.
“We also honoured Rachid Yazami, French-Moroccan engineer and scientist with over 150 patents in battery technologies,” Dubai’s ruler wrote.