Many Unknowns of Lithium Ion Battery Safety in Aerospace

Dr. Heather L Garten


Aviation continues to rapidly develop through ground-breaking technological and manufacturing feats. Specifically, the aircraft being delivered and manufactured today are evolving at an exponential rate, demanding innovative technology and manufacturing. From inflight wireless internet (Wi-Fi) to a light weight fuselage made with advanced composites to cabins that mimic living rooms of the rich and famous, the aircraft of today have very little resemblance to those just a decade ago. These aircraft demand more power, and the aviation and aerospace industries demand minimal costs. Thus why the aviation and aerospace industries began using lithium ion batteries. Lithium ion batteries are a common household item as they provide lightweight and intense power for cell phones, computers, power tools, and many other devices. However, lithium ion batteries, although light and powerful, have many draw-backs. The most notable is their fire hazards, which earned these batteries a great deal of press in early 2013 through their aerospace applications at Boeing. This paper focuses on the 2013 lithium ion battery fires aboard Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft and the UPS Dubai tragedy, offering a brief overview of the composition of lithium ion batteries to demonstrate the dangers of potential chemical interactions during battery fires. This paper concludes with possible new alternatives to these small energy powerhouses. The goal of this paper is to demonstrate how the present and future of lithium ion batteries remains uncertain as potential fire hazards increase with every aircraft innovation.


Aerospace, Aviation, Battery Fire, Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Hazardous Material, Lithium ion battery

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