back to article Samsung laptop battery burns

A Samsung laptop's battery caught fire yesterday, setting light to the bed it had been left on, South Korean firefighters have revealed. The P10 laptop overheated, causing the bedclothes to smoulder and burn. No one was hurt in the incident, Reuters reports, which took place in Yeonnam-dong, Mapo, South Korea. Details are …


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  1. Eponymous Cowherd
    Thumb Down

    No Excuse

    Laptops (all electrical equipment that may overheat, IMHO), should be designed such that they power down *before* any critical temperature is reached.

    If it caught fire because it overheated then its either a design fault or a fault in the thermal protection mechanism of the laptop.

  2. Kenny Millar

    Not as obvious as it seems

    Surely, regardless as to the merits of using a laptop on a pillow, the machines internal monitoring should have simply shut the machine off, and stopped charging the battery, as soon as the temperature reached some critical level.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Forgive me for being picky, but aren't the vents on the bottom of a laptop going to be blocked by clothing if placed on someone's lap? Surely either a design flaw, or a naming flaw.

  4. Will


    Pro tip: wrapping your laptop in a comfortable and warm pillow is not going to keep the air vents free and unobstructed.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Good lesson

    I'm personally glad that laptops overheat to the point of combustion when used in/on beds. It serves as a warning to the terminally stupid.

    Besides, laptop batteries do not come with temperature sensors and some parts of a laptop (e.g. the CPU) can reach temperatures that exceed the safe limits of a Li-ion battery. If you don't allow this heat to dissipate in the way it was designed, then you only have yourself to blame.

  6. Daniel Bennett

    Massive Flaw?

    Hold on... Laptops get air from underneath them?

    So if you set a laptop on a desk, or even on your legs - How is it getting enough air to keep it cool?

    Pretty stupid design for a LAPtop.

  7. Chris Wood

    Desktop machines don't allow this

    My desktop machine shuts itself down if it starts overheating - I had a CPU fan fail and I quickly found out this was the case as the PC would shut down after running for a couple of minutes from cold.

    Why don't laptop PCs do the same? OK, so maybe it's not the CPU heating up that's the problem, but it should be relatively straightforward to monitor the temperatures of other key components at the same time.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Re:Good Lesson

    "I'm personally glad that laptops overheat to the point of combustion when used in/on beds. It serves as a warning to the terminally stupid."

    As others have pointed out,this could equally occur on someone's lap. So by your argument people who use their LAPtop on their LAP is, also, 'terminally stupid'

    "Besides, laptop batteries do not come with temperature sensors and some parts of a laptop (e.g. the CPU) can reach temperatures that exceed the safe limits of a Li-ion battery."

    Which is, I would say, an *enormous* design flaw. Vents *do* get blocked, and not just by pillows. The design should take this into account.

    You should be able to block all air vents and the worst that should happen is the computer shuts down and you lose your work.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    We need a new acronym for this one...

    PEBPAC = Problem exists between pillow and ceiling.

    Means the same as PEBKAC, but locates the problem more precisely in the vicinity of the user's brain...

  10. Anonymous Coward

    @ *LAP*top

    Exactly why they were renamed *note*books after people kept burning their laps and complaining ;-)

    Still should be designed to shutdown when it gets too hot though.

  11. Karl Lattimer

    no naming problem...

    "The P10 Series from Samsung really offers the absolute technology in a thin 29.5mm, 2.3 Kg notebook for the business or home user."

    FYI there is a difference between a Laptop, and a Notebook, this is generally the way that manufacturers cover their arses in these kinds of cases, if someone is likely to suffer some pain or discomfort from using a portable computer because of heat or electrical discharge (yes this has happened to me, a nice 12v pulsing through my skin when wearing conductive clothes), the machine is then referred to as a Notebook rather than a Laptop. However! The company that sells you the machine is liable for any damages if when you are buying it, it is referred to as a laptop, even a casual or even prompted use of the word is enough to cover your arse under the sale of goods act (not fit for specified purpose of using it upon your lap)

  12. Roger Williams

    Re: Good lesson

    > Besides, laptop batteries do not come with temperature sensors...

    Bzzzt...thanks for playing... Commercial lithium-ion battery packs ALWAYS contain a temperature sensor (typically integrated with the pack's protection IC). Additionally (since Li-ion chemistry is not as safe as most other battery technologies), Li-ion cells contain several additional mandatory thermal safety devices, typically including a shut-down separator for overtemperature and a thermal interrupt fuse.

  13. James Haigh


    I thought we had to call them "Notebook Computers" these days, since implying they should be used on ones lap leaves the manufacturers open to criticism (and in this litigious age has the potential to affect profitability)

    Regardless of naming convention, I'm certain that the instructions supplied with said device when new will have advised that air vents should be kept free at all times.

  14. Joey Y

    Users do not understand...

    Users treat laptops like they treat keyboards for desktops. Little regard for where they put them (or what they spill in them).

    It is further complicated by the fact that many users get away with setting their laptops on things like pillows and plushy comforters without a problem.

    If I had a dollar, pound or euro for every time I saw a laptop humming quietly away on a pillow or other bedstuff, or even on someone's nice warm winter jacket, I would be rich.

    I do agree, though, that laptops should have better temperature monitoring. If we cannot make users less foolish, at least make the equipment more foolproof.

  15. Stu

    Lithium Ion

    I sincerely hope this doesnt point towards this whole Lithium-Ion = Fundamentally flawed chemistry argument again...

    It simply isn't!

    In fact its more like the fundamentally flawed 34 yr old woman from South Korea.

    Shes a woman, so she probably wrapped the laptop up in a nice snuggly warm fluffy pink bunny outfit too.


    I can hear the anti-sexism flames (pun intended) coming!

  16. Steve Evans

    You would have thought...

    That with modern Li-ion batteries giving all sorts of info to the OS, like date of first charge, remaining capacity and current temperature, it would be a simple addition to either make them safely shutdown the OS in the event of overheat, or more brutally disconnect themselves from the charging circuit.

    After all a sudden power off shutdown of windows might loose some data, but not as much as a bonfire.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    On the bed...

    Maybe it's also a good idea to stop propping my laptop against the radiator when I've finished with it.

  18. Ed Cooper

    You know

    surprisingly the engineers who build notebooks have actually thought of all your brilliant safety 'innovations'

    The problem is not to do with simply overheating, its due to the li-ion battery getting into a situation where it dramatically overheats and then burns. These type of incidents are generally chain of event incidents, where multiple things need to occur along with multiple failings of safety measures.

    Hence this is very rare, likely something around one in a million, but with maybe 500 million laptops in the world (?), it happens.

  19. Ash


    Guy at the factory must have enabled the HCF flag.

    Mine's the one with the RFID tag destroyer.

  20. Kurt Cypher

    @Joey Y

    "If we cannot make users less foolish, at least make the equipment more foolproof."

    Unfortunately, if you make something foolproof, the world will create a bigger fool to invalidate your efforts.

  21. Corin

    Some laptops...

    I'm the proud owner of an IBM T40 laptop, which sucks air in from.. the side, and pushes it out from.. the side! I've got some software which shows me its own temperature readings from all over the laptop (including two sensors in the battery pack itself), and when left on a bed or sofa, they're all in the low/mid 30s (unless the CPU is working hard, when that on its own increases a little). Moving it to a desk merits a temperature drop of all but a couple of degrees.

    Fine? I think so, especially since the battery's warning label lists 100°c as the maximum temperature; OK having the battery warmer will shorten its lifespan, but i'm already well aware of that and happy to tolerate it.

    It seems to me that bad design is the culprit here.

  22. Roger Williams

    Re: You would have thought...

    There's a good chance that this battery failure was caused by the same sort of mechanism associated with recent Sony and LG battery failures. It's claimed by those manufacturers that these were the result of internal contamination with metal particles: under elevated temperatures less than the rated battery temperature, these were able to pierce the separator in one cell, causing the cell to short, and resulting in what is euphemistically called "venting with flame".

    If this is indeed the case, neither monitoring battery temperature (it was still within its specified operating range) nor disconnecting the electrical load (too late at that point) would have prevented this incident.

  23. Wile E. Veteran

    Blame the victim?

    Funny, all these supposedly-smart techies heaping derision on the burn victim for being so "stupid" as to not adapt herself to the needs of her Lord And Master Machine. If you don't get the point that technology should serve people, rather than the other way around, you really should either find another line of work or admit that you are a lackey of the Lizard Masters.

    Technology should always be designed to fail as safely as is feasible, regardless of what the "stupid" user does.

    BTW, these "stupid" users might be rather brilliant in another field, just not computer technology.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    @Karl Lattimer

    "12V pulsing through my skin" 12 volts isn't enough to overcome your natural skin resistance. Which is why you can safely touch both terminals of a car battery all day without fear of shock or burns. I believe it takes around 45V to overcome your skin resistance to a point that a shock can be felt, and an appreciable current will flow through your skin. The situation may be somewhat reduced if you stick an electrode in an open wound or bodily oriface, or happen to be drenched in salt water, but if you were feeling a shock, it was a good deal more than 12V with which you were in contact.


  25. Morely Dotes

    Perhaps it would help

    ..if congenitally stupid gits could understand that there are *portable* computers, *transportable* computers (think "Osborne 1;" you can transport it if you happen to have a handy milk float), and *notebook* computers.

    There are very few actual *laptop* computers, and those are all very expensive, and designed for use in hostile environments, such as military field operations.

    And, of course, the first few pages of the owner's manual *always* warns against using the computer on a soft surface, such as a lap, carpet, or blanket. Even morons ought to be able to make the connection between "soft surface" and "pillow."

  26. Mad Hacker

    Damn driver's fault the Pinto exploded too

    If people hadn't gotten into accidents their Ford Pintos wouldn't have exploded either.

    It surely wasn't a design flaw. I mean, it's common sense that if you are in a collision your car may explode, after all you are carrying 12 or more gallons of highly flammable fuel. It just makes sense that some cars will explode when in a collision. So it's the stupid driver's fault for getting into an accident in the first place.

  27. Curtis W. Rendon


    Try touching both terminals of a car battery. You will let go pretty damn quick!

    I regard laptop/notebook/AIR as synonyms. Because we realize that the bottom of the unit getting to hot to have against our pants is a bad thing, people don't expect something they are carrying around with them as advertised to be dangerous t use.

  28. Matthew Kubicki

    Good old Sony Vaios!

    My lovely Vaio happily runs whilst smother in a duvet on my lap on a sofa for 4 hours of coding in Visual Studio, i'm going to have to pick carefully for my next laptop as this is now an essential requirement of and laptop/notebook I buy.

    It has the tiniest of vents about 5cm long at the back and a few slits on the base but nothing more, and fan rarely even speeds up!

    Guess all Sonys aren't bad!

  29. Rick Brasche

    my 3 and 5 year old Dell's are safe

    they start beeping as they near thermal overload and shut down. Or they freeze up or crash from memory errors.

    They should build laptops like the older gets too warm, chips unseat and you get a Ring of Death shutdown.

    And I don't care how much of a "genuis" someone may be in another field. If they're too stupid to learn how to use their tools (whether it be laptop, automobile, shovel, forklift or ball point pen) then they shouldn't be using them. Life isn't "Rain Man". I expect airline pilots to know how to operate their aircraft, I expect truck drivers to know how to drive, and I expect fast food employees to know how to make french fries without deep-frying themselves. Why should executive drones and artist-types be any different?

  30. Michael Heydon


    "Try touching both terminals of a car battery. You will let go pretty damn quick!"

    Um...I don't know about you, but I have done this numerous times with no ill effects.

    Just last night I was messing with some central locking gear and was holding wires onto a spare car battery for testing, on the weekend I was fitting spot lights and was holding onto the body of the car while holding a wire onto the +ve terminal, couldn't feel a thing.

  31. Kanhef

    Heat dissipation

    Some heat is removed by circulating air, but a fair amount is conducted away through the base of the laptop. Solid materials conduct heat well; pillows and blankets do not, which is why mine can reach burn-causing temperatures if I use it full-speed in bed, but barely gets warm on top of my steel desk. Just put a good heatsink under it and you'll be safe.

  32. Avery Richardson

    I use mine in bed all the time

    I usually use my iBook in the evening while in or on a bed, especially when staying in hotels for work. It's really the most comfortable place in my opinion after a hard day of work, alone, with nothing on TV, and wifi almost everywhere these days. I see nothing wrong with this usage, maybe just with the porn.

  33. Kradorex Xeron


    Apposed to popular belief, the CPUs are no longer the *hottest* component of a laptop -- the chipsets nowdays get extremely hot, however, alot of economy laptops do not monitor chipset thermals and instead, focus on the CPU thermals when the CPU gets enough airflow, however, the chipset gets next to none because it's stuck on the underside of the unit which often case, is always covered. That's why on some laptops, the area above the touchpad gets extremely warm, that's not the CPU, that's the chipset getting no real air circulation, potentially overheating.,.

    Until laptops can optimize the thermals with components not around the CPU or near any heatsinks with proper airflow, laptops should NOT be made any thinner like they are.

    Sure, the components are designed to take the thermals, however, surfaces (including people) that laptops are placed on cannot. I've had laptops sitting on a thick wooden desk that when you put your hand on the underside of the desk, you can feel the bleed of the heat. This is unacceptable and laptops designs should be re-evaluated.

  34. Chris

    Pillow Fire

    Surely i cannot be the only person that thinks the (probably cheap) pillow caught fire under the laptop and the following flame caused the NoteLapBookTop to go pop?

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Pillow Fire

    "Surely i cannot be the only person that thinks the (probably cheap) pillow caught fire under the laptop and the following flame caused the NoteLapBookTop to go pop?"

    I would hope that you were. The autoignition point of cotton is 407 °C.

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