On January 7, 2013, a Boeing Dreamliner (787) aircraft’s lithium-ion battery caught fire and alarmed many people about the safety of lithium-ion batteries on board big airplanes. While Beoing is still trying to determine the cause of the fire, they’ve come up with a short-term solution…a new battery case.
Researchers have been trying to determine the problem with little luck, and they said that a single cell of the battery pack sustained multiple short-circuits, one of which caused thermal runaway, or as we regular people call it, “fire.” The possibility of mechanical damage to the batteries was ruled out, as well as the possibility that there was a short-circuit between the cell and battery case.
According to the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Deborah Hersman: “We are looking at the state of charge of the battery cells, we are looking at manufacturing processes and we are looking at the design of the battery.”.
Boeing has been defending the usage of lithium-ion batteries, citing their benefits. Right now lithium-ion batteries are the standard of the market, being the most compact,powerful, and cost-effective batteries on the market. However some airlines, such as Airbus, would rather not bother with lithium-ion batteries at all.
Boeing intends to build a new case for the battery which is resilient enough to contain battery fires completely so they don’t ignite the rest of the plane, but to some, this is a band-aid, and the root cause of the problem needs to be solved so that there are no more fires. That sounds reasonable, fortunately, there is another development mentioned below.
According to Japan’s transport safety board, the main battery (the one that overheated) was incorrectly connected to the auxiliary power unit. Boeing intends to increase the space between each of the lithium-ion cells to prevent overheating in the future, as cells heat radiate their heat into each other.
If the FAA accepts Boeing’s new design, then the plane could get off the ground in only a month.
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