Flight Fright: Lithium-Ion Fires on Planes Reveal Need for Innovation

(DGIwire) – On May 30, 2017, a lithium battery in a passenger’s backpack caught fire aboard a cross-country flight, reported the Federal Aviation Administration. According to CNN, nobody was injured on the flight, which was traveling from New York City to San Francisco but was diverted to Grand Rapids, Michigan. The lithium battery began to smolder in a passenger’s backpack, reported CNN; flight attendants grabbed the pack, put it in a rear aircraft lavatory and closed the door until landing in Michigan. About three hours later, the plane was back in the air and on its way to San Francisco.

This close call was just the latest of several related incidents, which have led to a series of calls to ban lithium-ion batteries from planes. For example, last year, notes CNN, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 phones were banned from all flights after the company discovered that its lithium-ion batteries were faulty and could overheat and catch fire. More recently, in March 2017, U.S. aviation officials declared that airlines flying nonstop from certain countries in the Middle East and Africa to the U.S. would soon have to require passengers to check almost all electronic devices rather than carry them into the passenger cabin, CNN reported.

The majority of electronic products—not just cell phones but also tablets, notebooks and many others—utilize lithium-ion batteries, whose potential dangers have been well-publicized lately in the media.

“Each new in-flight scare involving lithium-ion points to the need for superior technology,” says Stephen Voller, CEO and founder of ZapGo Ltd. “One of the most intriguing potential alternatives involves a relatively new development called Carbon-Ion™ cell technology.”

ZapGo’s Carbon-Ion cell (Zap&Go) is being developed as the first Carbon-Ion cell that combines the fast-charging characteristics of a supercapacitor and—within a few years—is anticipated to match the energy density of Li-ion batteries, while also being safe and recyclable. Unlike Li-ion, which works by an electrochemical reaction, Zap&Go involves storing electrons with no electrochemical reaction. This means there is nothing to get used up, so Zap&Go cells can last through many more charge and discharge cycles than Li-ion, while staying safe and not at risk for a fire.

ZapGo’s platform technology is planned to be incorporated initially into products such as cordless power tools, robotic cleaners and electric bikes available for sale during late 2017, where the recharge time will be reduced from hours to sub-five minutes. By 2020, the company envisions the technology as being practical for use in smartphones themselves, finally allowing mobile phones to be fully charged from empty in under five minutes.

“No one should ever board a plane worrying that a device belonging to themselves or a fellow passenger is at risk for fire,” adds Voller. “Carbon-Ion could be an advance that puts this fear to rest.”

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