IT Life

Battery Fires A Different Beast From Data Center Heat Issues

Battery problems have led to recalls, and also airplane bans.
Computer overheating isn't limited to the data center. It's much more mobile than that. Sony-manufactured batteries in some Apple, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard laptops heat up in some circumstances, including when the computers are in sleep mode.

Internet images have helped raise awareness of the problem. Yahoo confirmed last week a laptop burst into flames at its Santa Clara, Calif., campus, causing a 45-minute evacuation. Pictures of the lap-top's remains were posted on Flickr, a photo-sharing site owned by Yahoo.

Dell last month issued the largest consumer electronics recall ever, for 4.1 million laptops containing Sony lithium-ion batteries, after a video showed a Dell laptop on fire at a Japanese convention. Apple soon followed, recalling 1.8 million laptops to replace the same type of Sony battery. HP recalled batteries in 15,700 laptops. (Toshiba last week recalled Sony batteries in Tecra and Satellite laptops, but said it was for a recharging problem, not overheating.)

The heat problem has raised enough worries that Virgin Atlantic Airways and Korean Air have banned Dell and Apple laptops on their aircraft unless the batteries are removed. The Federal Aviation Administration reported 60 incidents of overheated laptop batteries since 1991, including five fires in the last two years.

Laptop batteries are a world removed from data center equipment. But they have this much in common: With today's computers, you can't escape the heat.

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New Cooling Technologies Tackle Data Center Heat