>> Samsung's explosive Note 7 crisis may point to a far wider threat in the world of technology. Lithium has been powering portable devices for 25 years. And while it's not yet clear what initially caused certain Note 7s to blow up, some experts are pointing the finger at the phone's rechargeable lithium battery.
Reuter's tech correspondent, Jeremy Wagstaff, explains what may have triggered a potential $17 billion loss for Samsung.>> So the problem with lithium is really that as these devices get smaller, so the components become more compressed together. The lithium ion battery is mainly three things, it's a positive electrode, negative electrode, and then a separator in-between.
Now this separator is just a very thin foil and it's got thinner over the years, as these batteries have become more condensed. It used to be a few centimeters thick, now we're down to a few microns. If that separator is broken, the temperature very quickly increases and you have what is usually an explosion in the battery.
>> As devices get smaller but also strive to store more energy, the risk of detonation increases. In the words of one expert, a battery is basically a bomb that lets off energy in a controlled way and safety levels can vary significantly.>> The price of lithium-ion batteries has fallen a lot, 15% a year over the last 15 years.
>> And that means that the bottom end, where you're seeing lithium ion batteries in things like electronic cigarettes, then you are having more serious problems. Because those safety mechanisms just aren't there or they're very rudimentary.>> Consumer demand for thin, sleek devices used for hours on end is pushing lithium to the limit.
Experts say at the rate battery makers are going, even the most complex new devices may never be completely safe.