Exploding battery question

Not what you think. I’m an author and working on an action thriller novel. I need to know if it’s plausible (for the sake of the story) to hack a smartphone’s battery management to get it to catch fire on demand. Rapid over-discharge? Something of the likes?

Figured this place would be the place to ask, all you knowledgeable blokes.

Yes. I knew someone a few years ago who worked for a big internet retailer, which includes a fleet of delivery trucks.
They rolled out a software update overnight for the PDA-ish devices that ran the trucks’ location, direction and mapping software that overloaded the devices, some of which caught fire.
Apparently the drain on the built-in batteries went up into the “dead short’ region while the software update was running.

Can’t tell you how to do it, but anecdotally, it can be done.

That’s sufficient for my purposes. Many thanks.

Batteries in smartphones can handle some current. There’s no unnecessary load in a smartphone. But what you can do is to lock the CPU at high frequency and 100% utilization which would cause overheating of the CPU. There might be a tiny chance that it gets hot enough to overheat the battery before it dies.

this can only happen to equipment with no bms in the pack(bad design)
the bms will quietly disconnect rather than allow overcharge.

explosions are more likely in vaping products vs flashlights


the batteries can usually put out more current

people do ‘mechanical mods’ to them, that do not have any safety controls

it is possible to either overheat a battery during heavy use, which may cause it to explode later, or at the time

or to over-discharge it, so it may explode or burn during charging

it is also possibly to construct devices that will cause problems with certain batteries
it;s up to the builder and mistakes are easy to make

problems can be set up now and triggered much later


Overheating a cell phone through 100% CPU use won’t work unless you disable the thermal protection. A software hack could disable the phones safety set, but the battery couldn’t be used for the same purpose unless you physically tamper with it somehow and remove its protection circuits. All name brand name li-ion or lipo batteries have this protection.

I'd think the more plausible idea would be if someone physically swapped the battery with one that was made to burst into flames because of a software hack ...At the same time make sure the pilot lights on your smart furnace and stove go out so you can blow the person to smithereens ...

I think overcharge would be a better approach than overheat/over-discharging.

And two words. Samsung Galaxy lol

I’d imagine a proprieary company device, and if they went with the low bidder, could have an unprotected handful of the cheapest avaiable Li-ions.

I gather li-ion design these days is rather like aviation in the 1900s — dozens or a hundred manufacturers each with something that more or less would get off the ground and back again safely.

But making something software-driven to explode would probably mean a lot of bystander civilians would also get some of the loaded batch, as component supply and distribution in China seem, well, at risk from chabuduo.

Send the go-boom command out over the Internetz attached to cute kitten videos, and pop bang flash a lot of other hardware that happened to have been made with the bad part all over the place.

Look again at your cell phone. Is that your cellphone, or is it one just like it that someone swapped ya with a bomb built in?

Put the suspect phone down at the other eand of the room on speakerphone, and yell at it.

My recollection was that the Samsung Galaxy that had issues with fires a few years had a design defect. The battery compartment was too small and it was poorly designed. This led to batteries sometimes being punctured by sharp edges along sides of the compartment, causing a short.

Basically, it was a mechanical design defect… it wasn’t something that could be triggered by a software hack.

The Samsung Note 7 had issues with battery fires and overheating because of a design flaw in the phone and battery. They basically stuffed in the biggest battery they could get away with in a phone that was barely able to take it. The issue was that over time, the natural thermal stresses of quick charging (natural expansion and contraction) caused stress points in the cells, which were already in a cramped area (battery compartment syndrome) which eventually lead to cracks in the cell insulation, ruptures, and shorts. Also take into account the phone being handled roughly (sat on, left in a hot car, things pressed on it) and that doesn’t help. Samsung spent a lot of time and money on this, even doing OTA patches to disable effected devices.

Eh, and for the sake of writing it doesn’t matter. Even if it did, a simple line like “evil phishing hacker realizes the unsuspecting victim has installed a cheap 3rd party battery…thus making target device susceptible to explosive battery exploitation…”

…ok, maybe not so simple line…

Yeah I figure it’s close enough to plausible that it’ll work fine, especially given the premise of my story.

Having a bit of scientific knowledge it is the kind of trick i find really annoying in books and movies although they may be believable for most people.

For one thing, Li-ion batteries rarely explode. With hundreds of million of them being used everyday over the world, this only happens once in a while and is most of the time the result of a defect or faulty hardware. When abused most cells will overheat, possibly bulge and exceptionally vent. They hardly catch fire and even less explode.

Even if a software hack would manage to both overload the battery and bypass the built in protections, it would need a fully charged battery to have a chance to produce anything significant thus it is unreliable at best.

I believe mossad, the Israeli version of our cia has assasinated people by planting a small amount of plastic explosive in a cell phone which is detonated when called by a specific number.

Not the same thing but interesting

Lol…no gloves, masks, eye protection and stomping out fires with sandals, not sure if they’re more brave or dumb? They’re also renovating an apartment in the Chernobyl zone and trying to catch mutant fish.


Kreosan are crazy. I’ve been following them for a while on YouTube and am amazed they haven’t been injured during their stunts with electricity. It was interesting to see their videos during the Russia/Ukraine conflict though.

It would require an extremely negligent hardware design to exploit in software. So in your story perhaps Boeing makes phones? They don’t know how to make batteries or planes or software. Triple threat.