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Scientists have identified a reason why lithium batteries in laptops and mobile phones may overheat and catch fire.Cambridge University researchers said the growth of metal fibres, called dendrites, could cause short circuits. Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, normally used to identify elements in molecules, has been adapted to "see" how the dendrites develop. Researchers said it could help solve fire safety problems which have held up the development of lithium batteries.Rapidly overheatWhen current batteries are charged quickly, minute lithium dendrites can form on carbon anodes. These fibres can cause short circuits, causing the battery to rapidly overheat and catch fire, Professor Clare Grey, of Cambridge University's chemistry department said."Now that we can monitor dendrite formation inside batteries, we can identify when they are formed and under what conditions. "Our new method should allow researchers to identify which conditions lead to dendrite formation and to rapidly screen potential fixes to prevent the problem."