Lithium-Ion Battery Fires on Planes: What’s Going On?

(DGIwire) – Malfunctioning lithium-ion batteries have caused an alarming increase in the number of smoke and fire incidents on airplanes, according to a recent article in Consumer Reports. The Federal Aviation Administration reports that, on average, one of these fires occurs every 10 days. Any given flight might contain hundreds of Li-ion cells in phones and laptops. The risk is exacerbated by the fact that many rechargeable devices involved in these fires—such as wireless headphones and e-cigarettes—weren’t on the market a few years ago.

Li-ion battery fires are particularly dangerous because they burn very hot, they can emit toxic byproducts and they tend to flare up even after it seems like they’ve been distinguished, according to Consumer Reports. The article went to highlight various ways to mitigate the risk of Li-ion battery fires, including proper protocol for transporting spare batteries and how best to isolate a burning battery to minimize the risk that it explodes or spews sticky red-hot chemicals that can cling to the skin like napalm.

“The risks involved in the transport of Li-ion batteries, including fires, are many, which has prompted the search for less dangerous alternative power sources,” says Stephen Voller, CEO and founder of ZapGo Ltd. “One alternative that could someday ensure greater safety for mobile devices stowed or carried aboard planes is known as Carbon-Ion.”

ZapGo’s Carbon-Ion™ (C-ion®) cell technology (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 electric bikes, cordless power tools and robotic cleaners—available for sale starting in 2018—where the recharge time will be reduced from hours to sub-five minutes. At CES 2017, ZapGo displayed a range of functioning prototypes with this fast recharge time.

“While much research is ongoing to provide an alternative to Li-ion, Carbon-Ion is ready to be manufactured into consumer electronics,” Voller adds.