Boeing Chose Wrong Lithium Battery For 787, Says Lux

January 18, 2013 - via Lux Research

Boeing (BA) could switch to a safer type of lithium battery less prone to overheating for its new 787 Dreamliner, says Lux Research in a report.

Boeing's new advanced jet has been grounded around the world over safety concerns. U.S. investigators are probing why a lithium-ion battery caught fire in a 787 Dreamliner last week.

Boston-based Lux Research in a report published on Friday said the lithium battery being used by Boeing is manufactured by Japan's GS Yuasa. Lithium batteries differ in chemistry and alternatives are available to Boeing, said Lux analyst said Cosmin Laslau.

The 787's batteries use a material known as lithium cobalt oxide (LCO), according to Lux Research. It says Boeing should consider using a slightly different type of lithium battery called "lithium iron phosphate (LFP)." "Boeing made a design decision favoring higher energy over safer options, and is now paying the price," said Laslau, in a statement. According to Lux Research, auto makers have studied LCO-type batteries but chose not to use them in vehicles.

"There are known LCO safety concerns, most notably that the material does not resist overheating well," reported Lux Research. "Once started, Li-ion fires typically generate oxygen and are very difficult to extinguish: The first 787 battery blaze took 40 minutes to snuff out, injured one firefighter, and damaged the airplane's equipment bay."

Lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries are safer, says Lux research "Even when overcharged, LFP changes only slightly in structure, preventing oxygen release and resisting thermal runaway," it said.

Different types of lithium-ion batteries are used cellphones, laptop computers and other products.

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Author:Reinhardt Krause

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