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Apple PowerBook goes up in flames in London office

Apple PowerBook goes up in flames in London office

The Inquirer reports that 6ft flames went up from this PowerBook G4 before it became this burnt out ruin

Dell earned itself a pretty bad reputation for making laptops with a habit of spontaneously combusting back in 2006. However, it appears that Apple G4 PowerBook laptops based on similar Lithium-Ion batteries are also vulnerable, as one recently went up in 6ft flames in an office in London.

The Inquirer has the full story and pictures of the burnt out laptop from the morning of 25 February, as well as an interview with the IT manager at the anonymous company, Steven. Describing the scene, Steven says that “when I got there, much of the smoke has dissipated and nothing much was happening. I picked up the notebook to investigate, and turned it over. Soon after I put it down again, it basically exploded. Flames were flying six feet in the air, and sparks.”

According to the IT manager, not even a fire marshal emptying half a fire extinguisher onto the machine could quell the laptop inferno. "When he stopped using it, it just fired up again," said Steven. "He used the rest if the extinguisher on it but the laptop was still hot and glowing and the battery was all molten inside and glowing red.” The guys then called the fire brigade to deal with the fiery Mac.

Apple was just as exposed to the 2006 Lithium-Ion battery problems as many other companies were, and initiated its own battery exchange scheme for the PowerBook G4 and iMac G4. It’s likely that the burnt out G4 in question was an old machine that didn’t get its battery replaced. "We are aware that there was a battery recall several years ago,” Steven told The Inquirer, “it is entirely possible that the battery was one of those subject to that recall, but we can't tell now as the battery is now just slag."

This isn’t the first time that an Apple laptop battery has reportedly caught fire. In 2007, a MacBook owner reported a similar story. A number of companies also recalled their Lithium-Ion batteries following the scares, including Nokia , Lenovo and Toshiba. As well as this, The Inquirer also published photos of a Dell laptop in the process of catching fire during a Japanese conference. The overall problem was put down to issues with some of Sony’s Lithium-Ion batteries, and the company issued a global recall in September 2006.

Are you worried about laptop battery explosions? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

21 Comments

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Jordan Wise 27th February 2009, 12:44 Quote
I love stories like this. No matter how good technology is becoming it can still just go up in flames whenever it feels like it, and that's strangely reassuring
Johnny Bravo 27th February 2009, 12:51 Quote
I'm just glad it wasn't on someones lap at the time!
cjoyce1980 27th February 2009, 13:20 Quote
""The problem was put down to issues with some of Sony’s Lithium-Ion batteries""

I love it when large companies get a good kick in the nuts.... just because your big doesn't mean your products are... :o)
idontwannaknow 27th February 2009, 14:01 Quote
I prefer Lithium batteries to old lead-acid batteries, as anybody who has had an old car battery explode hot acid in their direction will attest. Maybe, Apple could use this as a marketing tool for the female & gay community, buy a Mac, get a visit from a hunky fireman!
Xen0phobiak 27th February 2009, 14:22 Quote
iFlames?
Jordan Wise 27th February 2009, 14:38 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by idontwannaknow
I prefer Lithium batteries to old lead-acid batteries, as anybody who has had an old car battery explode hot acid in their direction will attest. Maybe, Apple could use this as a marketing tool for the female & gay community, buy a Mac, get a visit from a hunky fireman!

that'd be preaching to the choir!

Oh no he didn't! :D
jim48509 27th February 2009, 15:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xen0phobiak
iFlames?


Very funny
Zurechial 27th February 2009, 16:13 Quote
This isn't quite as newsworthy as it first seems when you consider that there's a good chance they didn't send the laptop/battery back during the recall.

If a company announces a recall due to exploding batteries, you don't send yours back and it later explodes in a technological inferno, then really, whose lack of prudence was it?
Sure, it'd be nice if explosive, faulty batteries had never gotten into the market, but if someone didn't bother with the recall then they were just playing with fire. Pun regretfully intended.

On the other hand, explosions are always at least somewhat newsworthy. :p
mclintox 27th February 2009, 16:53 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jordan Wise
I love stories like this. No matter how good technology is becoming it can still just go up in flames whenever it feels like it, and that's strangely reassuring

Even better,it's an Apple!
Nexxo 27th February 2009, 16:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xen0phobiak
iFlames?

iCrash, iBurn

iSmoke
mclintox 27th February 2009, 17:02 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nexxo
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xen0phobiak
iFlames?

iCrash, iBurn

iSmoke

LMBO! Nice one
morris8809 27th February 2009, 17:53 Quote
fyi there is no way as far as i know extinguish a lithium battery fire, lithium batteries flame when the lithium inside contacts the air, only way to stop the flames is to cut air supply off. Burn baby burn.
Glider 27th February 2009, 17:59 Quote
Class D fire extinguishers are required in every room a Mac user is present ;)
GoodBytes 27th February 2009, 19:09 Quote
No the fire is expected. If you run iCamp, the laptop does a camp fire for you to tell stories, sing, and eat marshmallow, with your friends or family. iCamp is a feature in MacOX X.

When you use Mac, you have to forget everything about Windows and Linux. It's totally different. The Mac can do the impossible.
B3CK 27th February 2009, 23:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by GoodBytes
No teh fire is expected. If you run iCamp, the laptop does a camp fire for you to tell stories, sing, and eat marshmallow.with your friends or family. iCamp is a feature in MacOX X.

When you use Mac, you have to forget everything about Windows and Linux. It's totally different. The Mac can do the impossible.

Steve Jobs didn't charge for Icamp? WTF? He must be losing it. Especially the 6ft tall Icamp; that's got to be $329.99 over the standard Icamp.
bigsharn 28th February 2009, 00:41 Quote
I never thought I'd post this in something relating to Apple but...

I love this thread :D


But I am glad that nobody was hurt in the fire :)
Hazchem 1st March 2009, 00:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nexxo
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xen0phobiak
iFlames?

iCrash, iBurn

iSmoke

LIMBO?

also, really not that funny.

I'm glad mac are getting some bad press though.
idontwannaknow 1st March 2009, 06:25 Quote
Yes, it is really that funny.

Maybe it should have been in the following order though;

iSmoke, iCrash, iBurn
Perforated 1st March 2009, 14:20 Quote
iLOLed.

Still, technically the egg's on Sony for the fault more than Apple, surely? Which, imo, is even more satisfying. That, and the fellow that didn't go in for the replacement.

Dell and Apple and a few others all had trouble, Sony were the common factor yet so often seem to get away with a footnote at the end.
Phil Rhodes 1st March 2009, 15:40 Quote
Quote:
lithium batteries flame when the lithium inside contacts the air

Herewith follows a factoid report designed to minimise the promulgation of this sort of misinformation.

There is by design no lithium metal in lithium-ion batteries. There were lithium metal batteries during the 70s, but they were horribly dangerous and really used only for situations where there was no alternative to achieve the required levels of performance, particularly in things like military guided missile systems.

The lithium in a modern battery is supposed to be in the form of a lithium salt - a compound with other things. The problem happens when they're overcharged, overdischarged, or asked to supply too much current. Particularly, if you overcharge the cell, you will begin to plate lithium out of the compound as a metallic coating on the electrondes. Since all lithium ion cells contain a certain amount of air and water as an inevitable part of manufacturing tolerances, and lithium is pyrophoric in contact with those substances, having metallic lithium inside your lithium-ion battery is a near guarantee of a seriously unpleasant flammable-metal fire. These fires are extremely difficult to extinguish, burn very hot, and produce noxious fumes.

However, this almost certainly isn't what happened here. The famously-defective Sony cells were contaminated with metal particles which pierced the insulating separator that keeps the anode and cathode apart. This short-ciruicts the cell. Lithium ion cells have an extremely high energy density, and a short causes the cell to dump almost all of that energy into its internal structure very quickly. This causes it to blow its emergency vent (as opposed to exploding like a hand grenade, which is what it'd do otherwise). The impressive jets of flame visible in all those youtube videos are mainly just burning plastic and electrolyte being blown out of the cell under pressure. Nothing to do with a flammable metal fire.

Regardless it is difficult extinguish and isn't something you'd want happening on, say, an airliner, so you can understand caution.

P
Has worked with these things a lot.
Pricester 2nd March 2009, 09:20 Quote
Can someone please explain why the words "IT Manager" in the news article provide a pop-up link to advertise Server Management?

Bit-Tech - that's strike one.
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