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Boeing battery failures not seen derailing lithium-ion growth

Keywords: Tags  lithium-ion, Boeing, Dreamliner, 787, cobalt, batteries, Emma Kendrick, minor metals

LONDON — The recent failure of the lithium-ion battery used in Boeing Co.’s 787 Dreamliner is a setback for the technology but will not derail overall growth in new and existing applications, according to Emma Kendrick, research supervisor at Sharp Laboratories of Europe Ltd.

The failure of the lithium-ion battery on board an All Nippon Airways Co. Ltd. 787 Dreamliner in January was the result of an electrical fault, which caused the unit to overheat and catch fire.

"In terms of Boeing, the limitation was in the actual power electronics, not the chemistry. The actual chemistry is well known; we know what happens if you overcharge it," Kendrick told attendees at the AMM sister publication Metal Bulletin’s Minor Metals Conference in London on March 1.

The battery failure, which prompted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ground all 787 Dreamliners pending a review, attracted attention in the minor metals market due to the use of cobalt in the cathodes inside the batteries.

Nonetheless, Kendrick said she remained confident that lithium-ion batteries will remain the battery of choice in existing and emerging applications despite any temporary setbacks.

"With all these technologies you always have setbacks. They’re teething issues and although it’s a setback, I still believe ... that these technologies are going to be immersed in more and more applications," she said.

A version of this article was first published by AMM sister publication Metal Bulletin.

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