Exploding Batteries to Make Them Safer

How do you build a safer battery? By doing horrible things to it. At Sandia National Laboratories, lithium-ion batteries—the kind that are inside your laptop and cars—are pulverized, overcharged and just plain exploded.

The idea's to find faults in the batteries so battery makers can fix them. What's depressing is that the lab's underfunded and apparently still looks like it's out of the Cold War, with ancient equipment and tinfoil wrapped around lines for safety. This is even as the lab has alerted battery makers to the kinds of serious problems that cause batteries to you know, explode—leading the industry to create backup systems like mechanical circuit breakers when batteries get too hot.

Check out the full profile at the WSJ, it's eye-popping, and not just for the detailed descriptions of how the lab tortures the hell out of batteries. [WSJvia Techmeme]