Apple May Use Electrical Debonding For Battery Replacement

As a result of the European Union’s push for greater repairability of consumer devices like smartphones, Apple sees itself forced to make the batteries in the iPhone user-replaceable by 2027. Reportedly, this has led Apple to look at using electroadhesion rather than conventional adhesives which require either heat, isopropyl alcohol, violence, or all of the above to release. Although details are scarce, it seems that the general idea would be that the battery is wrapped in metal, which, together with the inside of the metal case, would allow for the creation of a cationic/anionic pair capable of permanent adhesion with the application of a low-voltage DC current.

This is not an entirely wild idea. Tesa has already commercialized it in the electrical debonding form of its Debonding on Demand product. This uses a tape that’s applied to one side of the (metal) surfaces, with a 5 bar pressure being applied for 5 seconds. Afterwards, the two parts can be released again without residue as shown in the above image. This involves applying a 12V DC voltage for 60 seconds, with the two parts afterward removable without force.

Tesa markets this right alongside the pull tab adhesive strips which are currently all the rage in smartphones, with the opinions on pull strips during battery replacement strongly divided. A bottle of IPA is always good to have nearby when a pull tab inevitably snaps off and you have to pry the battery loose. In that regard electroadhesion for debonding would make life significantly easier since the times when batteries were not a structural part of smartphones are unlikely to return no matter how much we might miss them.

We covered electroadhesion previously, as you can make just about anything stick to anything, including biological tissues to graphite and metal, with potentially interesting applications in robotics and medicine.

21 thoughts on “Apple May Use Electrical Debonding For Battery Replacement

    1. Me too!

      Wasn’t sure if they were sticking cars together with electroadhesion (make sure you plug the charger in the right way or they debond…!) or if they were using Tesla coils to stick batteries into phones…

      1. Something tells me they’re going to try to design this to require proprietary tools. Because that’s just what Apple would do in response to any right to repair legislation…

    1. Because otherwise they’d move around, and movement means vibration/movement/flexing/wear. Usually there’s a small PCB with some battery management functions, and then soldered to that are the battery leads, which are plugged into the mainboard. Between the BMS are flexible PCBs/cables. Those only have so many flexings before they might break. Imagine that BMS board slamming against the wall of the compartment it’s in. A lot of stuff inside the phone is metal – ie conductive.

      Phones have speakers and vibrate quite a lot when they’re in speakerphone mode.

      It’s also a huge portion of the phone’s mass, so if it’s not well-adhered to the phone, the phone might feel odd or ‘cheap’.

    2. Because only plebians and troglodytes would use a battery that’s attached to the frame of the phone with screws.

      It’s the same as why use screws and O-ring gaskets for making something waterproof when you can just glue the hell out of it.

      /S obviously

    1. Costs $0.15 more units. Multiply that by 30 million sold phones, and you’ll come to a loss of a potential profit of $4.5 million.

      Never forget about the Law of Big Numbers.

    2. You are not considering the Law of Big Numbers. Apple sold 60 million iPhone 14’s. The combined cost of the metal frame, screws and extra necessary actions during manufacturing, could amount up to $0.15 extra cost per unit. That would mean that Apple would miss out on $9 million in potential profit .

      1. All of which are addressable in easier ways. The only Apple preferences at work here are the preferences that people don’t repair their products but buy new ones.

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