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Electronics & Test
Lithium-Ion Batteries Emerge as Possible Culprit in Dreamliner Incidents
1/17/2013

Auxiliary power batteries onboard a Japan Airlines Dreamliner 787 caught fire at Boston's Logan Airport on January 7. The battery was taken back to the National Transportation Safety Board's Materials Laboratory in Washington for further examination.   (Source: NTSB)
Auxiliary power batteries onboard a Japan Airlines Dreamliner 787 caught fire at Boston's Logan Airport on January 7. The battery was taken back to the National Transportation Safety Board's Materials Laboratory in Washington for further examination.
(Source: NTSB)

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Cabe Atwell
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Blogger
fired
Cabe Atwell   1/17/2013 3:20:15 PM
They obviously overlooked the battery design slightly in the initial stages of development. At least no one was hurt, but I am sure Boeing will fire a few on the battery team. With all the battery exploding incidents from the past, I am surprised that wasn't a concern for the engineering team. However, it could have been a manufacturing error.. Time will tell.

C

apresher
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Blogger
Dreamliner Batteries
apresher   1/17/2013 5:26:21 PM
Chuck, Very interesting report.  It's amazing how with a system as complex as the Dreamliner, there are a very large number of unknown variables to resolve.  Tough for the Boeing engineers who are moving a project of this scope into the marketplace, especially in a spotlight as bright as this situation. 

Charles Murray
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Blogger
Re: Dreamliner Batteries
Charles Murray   1/17/2013 5:43:49 PM
I agree, Al. The spotlight is very bright in this case. I initially wondered if the bright spotlight might be part of the problem here. But the succession of battery overheating incidents in January alone is hard to ignore.  

Jack Rupert, PE
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Platinum
Re: Dreamliner Batteries
Jack Rupert, PE   1/17/2013 10:02:32 PM
It's interesting that this is the same technology that Ford just standardized on.  While the article mentions the cooling systems used in autos and some of the other design components, I can't help but wonder what can happen a few years down the road in vehicles that are not properly maintained...whatever the definition of "properly" may be with respect to battery safety.

gafisher
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Gold
Re: Dreamliner Batteries
gafisher   1/18/2013 9:39:12 AM
Lithium-Ion chemistry is also used in the Chevy Volt, the Fisker and other electric vehicles (but notably not in the Toyota Prius).  Li-ion is a very energetic chemistry, which is necessary to pack so much energy in a limited volume.  Gasoline is even more efficient, so much so that it can explode in situations where Li-ion batteries would only burn.

SystemsGuy
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Iron
Cooling at 30,000 ft.?
SystemsGuy   1/18/2013 9:39:44 AM
NO RATINGS
How hard can it be to cool batteries when the outside temperature at 30,000 ft is below (-60F) ?

ChasChas
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Platinum
Re: Dreamliner Batteries
ChasChas   1/18/2013 9:44:45 AM
I look at that tight battery box and think - you cannot cool an adiabatic heat source with it's own energy - inside of the system.

davemiga
User Rank
Iron
What type of lithium ion batteries?
davemiga   1/18/2013 9:47:51 AM
The description of the meltdown seems that they might be using lithium cobalt, not a good design choice if that is the case. Lithium iron phosphate LiFeP04 would be the only safe choice. Anyone know what Boeing used?

Charles Murray
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Blogger
Re: What type of lithium ion batteries?
Charles Murray   1/18/2013 9:53:22 AM
Very good point, davemiga. I've heard -- unofficially -- that it was cobalt, but haven't been able to verify it. And, yes, a cobalt chemistry is slightly more susceptible to overheating, although all lithium-ion chemistries are on the edge (with the possible exception of the so-called "nanophophate" chemistries).

ScotCan
User Rank
Platinum
Re: fired
ScotCan   1/18/2013 9:53:49 AM
Liaison engineers have commented previously that Boeing may have done too much too soon with this aircraft. 

We have had lithium systems problems in E scooters where thermal overload shut down the 48V system via the batteries management software. We concluded that heavy current draw during acceleration was causing the problem and tried conditioning that by tweaking the controller 

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