In a list of things in life (blind dates, new sports cars, Spotify playlists, etc.) that should be “fire” (latest slang for “hot”) your laptop and its battery should not be named. Unfortunately, if you happened to have purchased certain HP laptop models between 2013 to 2015, you might be re-introduced to the literal definition of “fire”. Technology manufacturer HP announced a worldwide, voluntary recall of certain batches of batteries that “pose a fire and burn hazard” that have shipped from the factory in 35 different laptop models, and may have been installed after-market in 38 other HP and Compaq models. HP has a full listing of impacted models on their website, and offers both software and physical means to determine if your battery is affected by this recall.
What this means for you:
If you’ve purchased an HP laptop anytime between now and 2013, I recommend flipping it over and checking the battery’s serial number on HP’s site. While you’ve got it upside down, visually inspect the battery and laptop for warped plastic, bulging or discoloration of any surrounding materials. Carefully check if the battery is hot to the touch. Warm is OK, but if it’s too hot to touch with your finger, you may have a problem. Keep in mind that certain laptops may run quite hot during CPU-intensive activities, including working with very large documents, playing video games or watching streaming video, and more so if the laptop is resting on insulating materials like blankets, cushions or even your pants or dress. It may also get hot if vents on the sides or bottom of the laptop are blocked for even short periods of time. Don’t panic if your laptop doesn’t have vents – the manufacturer only puts them in if the design calls for it. If your battery is not part of this recall, shows no signs of warping or heat damage, but still seems unusually hot to the touch even after working with it on a cool, flat surface, consider replacing it, either under warranty if still applicable, or by purchasing a replacement, preferably from the same manufacturer as your laptop. Cheaper, off-brand batteries might be an option, but check reviews as the knock-offs tend to have more problems with reliability and longevity.
Among the many things that complicate technology, batteries have historically been a big, heavy, environmentally disasterous anchor around everyone’s necks. Researchers at UCLA have recently announced a breakthrough in producing graphene-based “supercapacitors” that essentially takes the best parts of a capictor and a traditional battery to form what may be as transformative as the discovery of electricity. Graphene-based batteries are envisioned to be able to charge in minutes. On top of this, graphene itself is very eco-friendly (compostable, in fact), durable and flexible, almost the exact opposite of current battery technology.
What this means for you:
I don’t know about you, but my mobile devices always seem to be on low battery at the most inconvenient moments. Even if there is a power plug nearby and you happen to have your charging cable, putting your phone/laptop/camera/tablet down in the middle of a busy day (not to mention a public place like an airport) for an hour or more is just not practical. What may be really eye-opening is if graphene battery technology could be used for electric vehicles, specifically electric cars which have been struggling against “range anxiety” in their adoption and spread. Charging stations, once envisioned as impractical (mostly because of the slow charge times) could literally operate with the same speed and convenience as a traditional gas station, paving the way for a fossil-fuel free future. Say that four times fast!
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