Electronics & Test

Lithium-Ion Batteries Emerge as Possible Culprit in Dreamliner Incidents

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Re: Dreamliner Batteries
DanSchwartz   1/19/2013 10:55:56 AM
Yes, indeed you can pump out the thermal energy, depending on the coefficient of productivity (COP) of the system. For typical air conditioning systems the COP is about 4.0

D Hambley
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outsourcing and information flow
D Hambley   1/18/2013 6:09:30 PM
Chuck, Nice article. The "teething pains" mentioned are not because its a new aircraft as asummed by prof David Freiwald, whom you interviewed. The teething pains are how to manage outsourcing. I have worked with several firms involved with the 787 batteries and the information flow was disturbing. Getting information from GS Yuasa was difficult on one project I worked on. When a teir-3 company is supposed to depend on a tier-4 company for its data, with no contractual obligation, problems like this will occur.

Boeing subcontacted Hamilton Sundstrand (now Pratt & Whitney) for the APU, which contained the Battery control/charger system which was subcontracted to Thales which got the battery from GS Yuasa, which bought the battery cells from.....etc etc.  Has anyone played the 'whipser game' in kindergarten? I kid you not; at some meetings we joked with frustration at how similar it was.

The engineers involved in all these firms are very intelligent people and the battery issues will be worked out. Boeing management must ensure that all subcontractors are communicating.

Forbes magazine's Steve Denning hit the nail on the head in his airticle,

Paul Murk
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Lithium-Ion Batteries Emerge as Possible
Paul Murk   1/18/2013 4:32:46 PM
Well Again, we are innocent until poven guilty!

I am more interested to find a common fault with all the unrelated components of the 787. Such as the idea that Boeing left it up to the subcontractor or supply for reliable compnents to find out the forged test documrnts to meet specifications. If this is the case Boeing need to be held ownership to this.

There has been a recent problem with government purchased Off the shelf items. This was a policy put in place by Pres. Clinton to mandate reduce military cost and custom built hardware by contractors by utilizing COTS, or off the shelf equipment...Good idea?

Recently there has been virus found embedded in micoprocessors from China in American Hardware used in the military. There has been a real problem with ICs and various electronic componets removed and refurbed off of old assemblies. The component logo was removed and new log placed on devices trhat never went thru any enviroment screen and shipped and used in new products. Again the refurb supplied by China. Hence COUNTERFIET components.

Problem is that since Clinton, this problem is 20 years in the making. So before shooting bullets, WISDOM tells me further investigation is warranted as to where did all the failed comonents originate and the paperwork that was supplied to validate know good assembly procedures and proper procurment and no ties to the discussion above.

Not to say Boeing took a short cut? But unknowingly purchased conertfeit components without knowledge. I am sure the proper screening was cercuimvented or they using the 787 as the test bed???

So glad the FAA had melons big enough to ground the Hydrogen dirigible airship Hindenburg I meant to say Boeing 787...Maybe 1000s of lives have been saved.

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Re: Interesting subject.
RichardBradleySmith   1/18/2013 2:44:23 PM

I am confused. "It's a marvel that these metal birds can fly." I thought the point of this plane was it is plastic? As a sailor I can tell you plastic, wood or metal, fire is not a good thing. If that thing in the lead photo was the "battery" then I see why they grounded them until this gets sorted out. As aviation test engineer you of all people should know this will be resolved. While I really don't know anything about it I am still of the opinion that these planes do not fly anymore than a fully loaded and fueled B52 flys, once off the ground they are at all times in a controlled fall. Even sailplanes and hang gliders don't fly, they soar. How can they fly 5 miles up where there is little "air"? That makes no sense. Now massive amounts of air pressure pushing on the bottom of the wings to get them in the air, that I can believe. Massive power continuing them in the direction they are going, that I can believe. People tell me I am wrong and they wing shape really does generate enough lift but I don't see it.

G D Bryan
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Re Lithium Ion Batteries solution
G D Bryan   1/18/2013 1:58:36 PM
As an experience evaluation engineer, I can see some omitions in Boeings

evaluation processes:

1)  How much environmental testing did they do with the batteries before they

     put them into the plane.  That does not include vendor claims of evaluation

     and testing.  You can't always trust vendors to be honest.

2)  Were the batteries tested at max load or in a short circuit mode.   They should

     have been and under no possible conditions should the batteries ever burn

     or go into a catastrophic failure mode without a considerable warning with

     sufficient time to find a landing field and get a plane out of the air if the

    performance of the batteries are essential for the safe operation of the plane.


3)  Design the batteries with sufficient internal and external protection so that

     they are virtually indestructable in the environment where they are used if

     they are going into an aircraft.  How is this done?  Current limit each major

     portion of the battery and if reverse voltage protection is needed, then

     make sure that it is there. 

4)  Design in spares that can be switched in to a module that happens to

     go into a failure mode in the air.  If multiple battery systems are in place,

     then the switching mechanism can be such that one or two spares can be

     used to back up several working units. 


5)  Test, test, test, worst case test, and if environmental limits are found to

      be required, then be damned sure that those environmental limits are

      never exceeded in flight. 


6)  Do destructive testing to be damned sure you know how much overkill you

     have designed into the system


I workd at Boeing before and their old leaders would never have allowed this

to happen.  I am pretty sure of that.  Layton Hood would roll over in his grave

if he knew this was put out without proper testing and development.  Jus

a partin shot there.


I do consult and could stand some cash in my pocket lately.  If Boeing needs

a little outside help, I may still have an employee number there.  If not, I

do cash Boeing checks and would be happy to help them get this fixed in a

timely manner.  Just give me access to an environmental chamber that goes

to about 70k feet so I can make sure we get it done right.  Then we can get

on with fixing this ASAP.

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Re: Interesting subject, but...
Amclaussen   1/18/2013 1:39:18 PM
Absolutely! but sometimes people, not withstanding how competent or well trained, perform incredibly simple (as an after though) errors.  All aeronautical companies do, from time to time, execute some grave ones. Remember the control valve on the Rudder Control Unit of the B-737...  Or the software glitches of the A-320...  or the uncommmanded thrust reverser openings on the Fokker-100.  In a large number of these catastrophic failures there is an identifiable dose of incomplete testing.  The Wright Brothers were 1) very knowledgeable and, 2) fully committed to testing, so that they were able to survive for quite a few years. Blind faith or 'confidence' should not be in the vocabulary of an aviation expert, my two cents.  Amclaussen.

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Re: Lithium-Ion Batteries , Second look!
Amclaussen   1/18/2013 1:02:27 PM
Paul, even with the extremely greedy industry attitude nowadays, I doubt Boeing purchased such kind of batteries. Aviation is characterized by very high standards, but in these days, some goofes can (and doo pass).

For me it is another (of the many) cases of bad results derived from the abuse of that "modern" practice of outsourcing. Not that outsourcing per-se is bad, but the ever growing tendency of completely relying on subcontractors (that sense of "lets the supplier take care of this and forget" attitude that has its roots in so called modern administration practices, that permeate companies previously known for their reliable products.

Trying to push out a completely new design, that has many advances at the same time requires a proportionately larger and more trained workforce, so the MBA geniuses at top level decide to place an often too large share of design, integration and testing on outside subcontractors, and in theory, they instantly kill any problems! This is a world-wide tendency courtesy of latter generations of so called 'professionals' that appear to have all the credentials that (apparently), qualify them as experts. As older generations of old-fashioned engineers retire, the new ones arrive to the scene looking as disproportionately capable ones, that rely too much on software aids, simplified methods and a generalized lack of true hands-on real life experience. I seriously doubt how many of those engineers have actually seen a small Lithium battery pack as it catches fire? (One of my hobbies is Model Airplane building and flying, and there are some high temperature ceramic pots sold in the hobby market, designed precisely to contain those relatively small batt packs if they decide to ignite under charge -or storage-, for that matter!).

Regarding the general attitude towards too much confidence or reliance in a given supplier, certifying body or industry in general, I'll give you an example:

I read about two weeks ago: Daimler and Volkswagen decided to defy the European Union Jan. 1 deadline that orders the use of a new, 'ecologically friendly' refrigerant that should replace the widely used R134a, owing to the results of realistic automobile crash test performed in houseby Daimler engineers, that resulted in fires, even when the DuPont-Honeywell new refrigerant has been enthusiastically promoted as a "safe" and much more "green" substitute for R134a. The fact is that the same companies have promoted the new product as "only slightly flammable" (if such term is plausible). the exact phrase said "It is well known that HFO-1234yf is a mildly flammable refrigerant," [Diane Iuliano Picho, global business manager, Opteon™ refrigerants.]

The good guys at GM quickly jumped on the bandwagon and publicly announced they swear at the product and will happily use it!

This shows that industry, suppliers, and even governmental testing bodies, all can be persuaded in a given moment to favor (or allow) the use of a new product, as it represents "innovation" (DuPont's Terrence Hahn reportedly said: "The key element for the EU government is forcing the implementation of their rule," said Terrence Hahn, general manager of the U.S. company's fluorine products unit. "If you are not doing that, you are going to severely dampen innovation..."

In the B-787 case, over relying on the supplier for the battery system for everything, is like relying on the publicity published by the freon replacement manufacturer in order to declare the system "safe". In the refrigerant case, it is curious that the Daimler engineers were able to produce a crash fire when several others weren't. I applaud them, and applaud both Daimler and Volkswagen for defying the dumb politicians of the EU, the same people that gave us the ban on leaded solder and other measures that fit well the "Law of uninntended consequences".

It is not difficult to perform an illustrating experiment: take a little cooking oil, placed into a cup it is hadly flammable, but put into an old parfume sprayer, press the rubber bulb and the same oil ignites with incredible violence. I doubt some self appointed experts have actually performed this simple experiment.  No amount of wishful thinking or babying will bend the laws of physics (or chemistry). There is no substitute for experience.  Amclaussen.



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Interesting subject.
ervin0072002   1/18/2013 1:00:58 PM
It's difficult to find what the fault is on a problem like this. These projects have extensive testing (i am an aviation test engineer). It could have been many things that lead to this issue. (Might not even be related with the battery at all). It's a very large system with many components and the battery is the weak link. I am confident that FAA and Boeing will find a solution and this plane will fly again. Let's not jump to conclusions and let's wait on an official announcement from FAA or Boeing.

I am not associated with FAA or Boeing. It's a marvel that these metal birds can fly. This happens all thanks to companies like Boeing.

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Re: Cooling at 30,000 ft.?
NRDW   1/18/2013 11:57:26 AM
Actually -60 degree F temperatures might be part of the cause - lithium ion batteries don't like really large temperature swings

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warren@fourward.com   1/18/2013 11:00:20 AM
How often we recommend that you always make one change at a a time in anything new. Boeing changed so many things at once it is remarkable the plane flew at all! I'm a big Boeing fan, but me thinks your bite was too big for thy mouth...

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