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Boeing: New Enclosure 'Keeps Us From Ever Having a Fire'
Design News ^ | 3/15/2013 | Charles Murray

Posted on 03/18/2013 8:36:42 AM PDT by null and void

The Boeing Co. took the issue of 787 battery fires head-on last night, definitively declaring that with pending modifications to its lithium-ion battery packs, a “fire can’t begin, develop, or be sustained.”

Speaking at a technical briefing in Tokyo that was broadcast live on the Web, Boeing executives defended the performance of the embattled 787 batteries in recent overheating incidents, and added that its engineers have strengthened the design of the packs with a number of technical enhancements. Most important, they said, is the addition of a new enclosure that prevents fires.

”I want to be very, very clear on this point,” said Mike Sinnett, vice president and chief engineer of the 787 program. “This enclosure keeps us from ever having a fire to begin with. That’s the number one job of this enclosure. It eliminates the possibility of fire.”

In a teleconference that lasted approximately an hour, Sinnett laid out a number of fixes for the battery packs, but most strongly emphasized the capabilities of the enclosure. The enclosure, he said repeatedly, would eliminate the possibility of fire and vent gases through a dedicated line. It would also protect the electronics bay and any surrounding equipment from heat vented by the battery during an incident.

”If a [battery] cell were to vent, it would vent into this enclosure,” he explained. “It ruptures a ‘burst disc’ in the enclosure, which allows all those gases to go immediately overboard.”


Boeing added electrical isolators, drain holes, heat-resistant sleeves, and dielectric isolators as a means of reducing the possibility of ignition. A new enclosure also ensures that no oxygen is available for combustion. (Source: The Boeing Co.)

The key to preventing fires is to carefully control the amount of available oxygen, Sinnett said. Describing a potential scenario, he explained that the pressure disc in the rear of the enclosure would open after about 1.5 seconds of cell venting. Vented electrolyte would then entrain the air inside the enclosure and “take it overboard... So as long as we keep the vented air out of the battery enclosure, there’s no oxygen to support combustion."

Sinnett also detailed a number of other fixes for the lithium-ion battery packs. He said engineers wrapped the cells in an electric isolator to make sure they can’t short circuit, tightened nuts on top of the plate that connects the cells, added drain holes to make sure there was a path for moisture to exit, improved the heat resistance of the wire bundles on top of the battery, added heat-resistant sleeves to prevent wire chafing, and employed dielectric isolators above, below, and around the battery. All of those changes are aimed at reducing the possibility of ignition, he said.

To reduce the possibility of overcharging, Boeing engineers also dropped the upper voltage limit of the battery and raised the lower limit. Dropping the upper limit reduces the potential energy in the battery, while boosting the lower limit protects against a deep discharge event that can cause damage to a cell.

Sinnett defended the performance of the lithium-ion battery packs to date, contending that there was no fire in the Takamatsu incident. He also said that other battery chemistries have been known to have problems.

“We use lead-acid in some of our airplanes. We use ‘ni-cad’ in some of our airplanes. And it’s surprising for many people to know that in the last 10 years, there have been thousands upon thousands of battery failures on commercial airplanes. Many of those have resulted in smoke and fire events.”

Boeing has been testing its new battery design for about six weeks and is about one-third of the way through its certification plan. During tests, engineers have been able to demonstrate that when the battery vented, the enclosure contained no vented electrolytes. Using test rigs over approximately 60,000 hours, they’ve also been able to show that no fire is possible inside the battery, according to Sinnett.

Battery experts contacted by Design News questioned the solution, however, especially with regard to no oxygen being available for combustion. “There’s oxygen in the positive electrode,” Donald Sadoway, John F. Elliott Professor of materials chemistry at MIT, wrote in an email to Design News. “If the temperature exceeds a certain value, oxygen is liberated and fans the fire.”

”Inside the battery, there are all the necessary ingredients for thermal runaway,” added Elton Cairns, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering the University of California Berkeley, in an email to Design News.

Questions about lithium-ion also prompted Airbus to drop plans for using the technology. The company had originally proposed to use it on its A350 airliner, but opted out after the Boeing incidents, according to several news reports.

Boeing acknowledged that its engineers still don’t know the reason for the fire at Boston’s Logan Airport, despite lengthy analyses by the National Transportation Safety Board.

“In the events of Logan and Takamatsu, we may never get to the single root cause,” Sinnett said. “But the process we used to understand what improvements can be made is the most robust process we’ve ever followed in improving a part in our history.”


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS:
Yes. And the Titanic is still unsinkable...
1 posted on 03/18/2013 8:36:42 AM PDT by null and void
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To: null and void
Even hobbyists, most of whom are not chemists, know that Li batteries provide their own O2 in thermal runaway events.
2 posted on 03/18/2013 8:44:31 AM PDT by steve86 (Acerbic by Nature, not NurtureĀ™)
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To: null and void

This is your pilot speaking “Even God and icebergs can’t put this plane down.”


3 posted on 03/18/2013 8:48:39 AM PDT by BipolarBob (Happy Hunger Games! May the odds be ever in your favor.)
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To: null and void

Their claim is probably accurate.

The battery won’t catch fire.

It’ll just explode instead...


4 posted on 03/18/2013 8:48:41 AM PDT by chrisser (Senseless legislation does nothing to solve senseless violence.)
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To: steve86

I own Boeing stock and root for them when deserved, but this is just papering over the problem. Batteries shouldn’t catch fire. Period. Fix THAT problem.


5 posted on 03/18/2013 8:49:59 AM PDT by BikerJoe
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To: null and void
Sounds like they are turning it into a pipe bomb instead.

The pressure has to go somewhere.

6 posted on 03/18/2013 8:51:19 AM PDT by E. Pluribus Unum ("Somebody has to be courageous enough to stand up to the bullies." --Dr. Ben Carson)
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To: null and void

Much of the same green thinking that went into these batteries were what caused the Columbia disaster, I pray we don’t see another caused because of PC thinking here.

Seems the best foam was not used on the SS because of ozone restrictions by the EPA, even though when that bad boy went THROUGH the ozone it did about a million times more damage to it than a few whiffs of esters ever could.

Why are they using these at all, to reduce running the APU?


7 posted on 03/18/2013 8:51:38 AM PDT by Abathar (Proudly posting without reading the article carefully since 2004)
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To: null and void; DaveTesla

ping


8 posted on 03/18/2013 8:52:40 AM PDT by Defiant (If there are infinite parallel universes, why Lord, am I living in the one with Obama as President?)
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To: null and void
Sinnett defended the performance of the lithium-ion battery packs to date...

Other than that, how did you enjoy the play Mrs. Lincoln?

9 posted on 03/18/2013 8:59:23 AM PDT by Gamecock ( If we distort the gospel, that distortion will influence and affect everything else that we believe)
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My policy is to never buy a car that is in it’s first model year, or to fly on a new model airplane.

I won’t fly on an A-380 for a couple more years or a 787 for at least 5.


10 posted on 03/18/2013 9:01:43 AM PDT by Gamecock ( If we distort the gospel, that distortion will influence and affect everything else that we believe)
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To: null and void

This is big news here (seattle area). In none of the reports has there been note that the battery is fixed.

Just that it is contained.

Comforting. /s


11 posted on 03/18/2013 9:02:42 AM PDT by llevrok (Keep your arms out. It makes it harder for them to throw a net over you.)
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To: null and void

12 posted on 03/18/2013 9:03:23 AM PDT by dfwgator
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To: null and void
If man were ment to fly he would have wings.

Travel over 60 mph will suck the air out of passengers' lungs and cause them to suffocate.

Shut down the patent office. Everything that will be invented has been invented.

If we listened to this advice, there would never be technological innovation. That innovation involves risk. Boeing will fix the problem while some just continue to wring their hands in despair.

13 posted on 03/18/2013 9:14:57 AM PDT by pfflier
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To: null and void

Ah, the Apollo 13 solution - a burst disc.


14 posted on 03/18/2013 9:28:10 AM PDT by NonValueAdded (If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, you've likely misread the situation.)
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To: E. Pluribus Unum
Sounds like they are turning it into a pipe bomb instead. The pressure has to go somewhere.

It appears that you missed this part from the second paragraph... "...the pressure disc in the rear of the enclosure would open after about 1.5 seconds of cell venting. Vented electrolyte would then entrain the air inside the enclosure and 'take it overboard... So as long as we keep the vented air out of the battery enclosure, there’s no oxygen to support combustion.'"

15 posted on 03/18/2013 9:58:25 AM PDT by John Valentine (Deep in the Heart of Texas)
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To: steve86
Even hobbyists, most of whom are not chemists, know that Li batteries provide their own O2 in thermal runaway events.

Precisely.

16 posted on 03/18/2013 9:59:14 AM PDT by null and void (If the government is so worried about civil disturbance, why are they working so hard to disturb us?)
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To: Abathar

What? You mean eco-friendly terpenes don’t clean as well as Freons?


17 posted on 03/18/2013 10:01:11 AM PDT by null and void (If the government is so worried about civil disturbance, why are they working so hard to disturb us?)
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To: Gamecock
My policy is to never buy a car that is in it’s first model year, or to fly on a new model airplane.

I won’t fly on an A-380 for a couple more years or a 787 for at least 5.

Or buy any microsoft product before service pack 2

18 posted on 03/18/2013 10:02:23 AM PDT by null and void (If the government is so worried about civil disturbance, why are they working so hard to disturb us?)
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To: llevrok
Comforting. /s

Quite.

19 posted on 03/18/2013 10:03:01 AM PDT by null and void (If the government is so worried about civil disturbance, why are they working so hard to disturb us?)
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To: null and void

Or switch from XP.


20 posted on 03/18/2013 10:15:43 AM PDT by Little Ray (Waiting for the return of the Gods of the Copybook Headings.)
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To: pfflier
innovation involves risk.

Not on a commercial plane it doesn't. The risk gets designed out or the engineers failed at their job. Yeah they will fix it eventually, probably by going back to nicads. As an avionics engineer I am astounded at how big a mistake Boeing made with this battery thing. They should have done a lot more homework. Don't confuse 'innovation' with 'royally screwing up'.
21 posted on 03/18/2013 10:16:19 AM PDT by TalonDJ
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To: null and void

M-I-C, see ya real soon, K-E-Y, why ? because we like you. M-O-U-S-E.

The 787 chief engineer sounds like an incompetent political boob. This is so obviously putting a bandaid on cancer it’s ridiculous. The MBAs (Master Bullhockey Artists) are clearly in charge at Boeing.


22 posted on 03/18/2013 10:29:13 AM PDT by jimt (Fear is the darkroom where negatives are developed.)
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To: TalonDJ

Good post!


23 posted on 03/18/2013 10:30:56 AM PDT by Shark24
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To: TalonDJ
I too am an avionics enginner, now retired, and have worked with the F-111, F-16 and Tomahawk cruise missile through the tough times. Each had innovations and growing pains that we overcame despite the "It'll never work" handwringers.

I don't disagree that the solution may be dumping the LION batteries, I'm just tired of reading the "world is coming to an end" comments about the 787. It will fly again.

24 posted on 03/18/2013 12:03:08 PM PDT by pfflier
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To: pfflier

I have worked on both commercial and military systems. There is a huge cultural difference. Air Force pilots understand they might be pushing the envelop to ensure our country is protected by the latest and greatest goodies. Passengers on a commercial plane just want to get where they are going safely. That is all they signed up for.

That said, it is a battery. Of course it is not the end of the world. Swap it for something that works, even a revised LION, and move on. But, perception matters. Part of why this was such a big mistake for Boeing was because of the knee jerk reaction. They blew some of their cache of public trust on this one. They still have more in the bank, but it is still damaging. Some people will not want to get on a 787 after this regardless of the fix. We can tell them they are stupid and dismiss them as handwringers, but our opinion of them does not effect the reality of public opinion. A lot of people just plain don’t want to be lab rats for Boeing’s technology tests. They need to fix this fast and then look real hard at how something this untested made it on a production design. Their development processes should never have let that happen.


25 posted on 03/19/2013 8:48:26 AM PDT by TalonDJ
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To: TalonDJ
There is a huge cultural difference.

I won't dispute the cultural differences or the issue of percceptions. Poor public perception killed the Electra II and the DC-10 although they both served the military very well for decades.

For a short period I worked on the DC-10/KC-10 mid-body.

Interestingly, I found that Mil-Q-9858 level requirements saw far more intervention applied by Govt inspectors than FAR requirements for the DC-10. We had DCAS review nearly all aspects of the military side while FAA inspectors were only visible occasionally. The DCAS guys said they had no interface or relationship with the FAA guys and no functional knowledge of their requirements.

These inspections were on the same components just different end item users.

26 posted on 03/19/2013 9:47:12 AM PDT by pfflier
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