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Lithium Ion battery packs which are also known as Li-ion or rechargeable are small, compact, which have a high energy concentration thats ideal for providing some long lasting power to portable devices. Lithium-ion battery packs normally contains Lithium-ion cells and battery that monitors & protects the circuitry and so needs to be both sealed in a plastic container or wrap that shall not be disassembled (Nazri, 2009). For safety precautions reasons these batteries packs and products containing them needs be used, then charged, and handled with reasonable care as instructed by the manufacturer's .therefore improper use can lead to either product damage,or electrolyte leakage, serious injury, and fire hazard becomes the greatest damage.
According to aviation news released on November 2009 the department of transportation reported of some dangers which were posed by the carrying of the lithium batteries on board with the commercial passengers as well as in the cargo. It was also reported that since 1991, more than forty incidents related to the air transportation were brought about by lithium batteries. Most of those cases were as a result of the lack of awareness of the specified regulations to be followed as well as the risks involved during the shipment of the lithium batteries. As a result, in July a safety alert was issued by the FAA recommended the necessary procedures of fighting the fires which would be caused by the lithium batteries either in some portable devices or carried as spare batteries (Aifantis, 2010).
Although the ALPA has not pressed for the banning of the devices which uses lithium batteries such as laptop aboard the aircraft but they are concerned with the dangerous fire hazards posed by the lithium batteries. These concerns were mostly attributed to the recent incidents which were closely associated with the lithium batteries as the major causes of fire. There was an incident where a flight crew got a warning that indicated of some smoke which was emanating from the cargo compartment just after landing. The officer reporting the incident noted that the firefighting personnel were brought to the scene where they were involved in removing all the cargo in the compartment where they discovered a container which was emitting flames. The cause of the fire was from some approximately a thousand e-cigarettes which each contained a rechargeable lithium battery (Crompton, 2000).
Lithium batteries have become very popular in the recent years die to their features which make the best preferred over other competing technologies. Among those features are that, they are lighter than any other types of the rechargeable batteries. The electrodes of the lithium battery are usually made of some light weight lithium together with the carbon. Lithium is usually known to be a very reactive element which makes it possible to store their energy in the atomic bonds. It's as a result that makes the lithium batteries have a very high energy density.
Lithium batteries can provide extremely high currents and can discharge very rapidly when short-circuited. Although this is useful in applications where high currents are required, a too-rapid discharge of a lithium battery can result in overheating of the battery, rupture, and even explosion. Lithium-thionyl chloride batteries are particularly susceptible to this type of discharge. Consumer batteries usually incorporate over current or thermal protection or vents in order to prevent explosion.
It's becoming evident of the problem involved with the shipment of the lithium batteries where it appeared to be a fulfillment of what was earlier warned about. From some safety advocates from Washington, they had warned about a decade ago of the dangers that would be experienced following the shipment of the lithium batteries which are used mostly in cell phones, cameras and many other countless products. The safety advocates warned that, the continuous shipment of these batteries would one day cause fire, which would cause a plane to crash and subsequently claim lives. That day could have arrived on the third of September when a service cargo plane caught fire which was caused by the large quantity of lithium batteries. The incident occurred near Dubai in the United Arab Emirates where both pilots died. This lead to the Federal Aviation Administration to warn the air carriers of the dangers posed by the shipment of the lithium batteries.
The accident became a wakeup call to the pilot unions and other safety advocates to urge the government to treat the shipment of the lithium batteries as being highly hazardous material. Though there are some regulations which are being put in place, they have met some criticism from those who claim that, their way of offering gifts would be disrupted since the cost of transportation would be increased. The pilots unions together with some advocates, view the regulations as taking a very long time before being implemented despite the fact that there is an existing danger already during shipment of those batteries. "All regulation eventually gets written in blood because it takes something catastrophic to get anything done," said Russ Leighton, safety director for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters' airline division. "In this case, only two people died, and it wasn't a huge media story, so we'll probably have to wait till 300 people do die before there's any change."
There has also been some more dangers encountered during the shipment of the lithium batteries as some lithium batteries contain some metal that would immediately ignite if exposed to air. The positive and the negative poles are very close to one another in some batteries which can easily to a short circuiting which would eventually become a cause of fire. Lithium batteries come in two types: one is the lithium metal which are usually nonrechargeable and are mostly found in devices such as watches and most cameras. The other type of these lithium batteries are those that are rechargeable and are known as lithium-ion batteries which are vastly used in laptops, cell phones and some most power tools.
Both types of the lithium batteries can short-circuit if they are improperly packaged, damaged or if they have some manufacturing defects. These batteries can also overheat and subsequently ignite if the device they are being used in is inadvertently turned on. The overheated lithium batteries can blow away the lids off steel containers with such enough force to damage the plane. The effect would become critical since when one battery catches fire, it would lead to the others blowing too.
There has been the effort of installing the halon gas fire suppression systems in the cargo compartment of the passengers planes though the system becomes ineffective to the fires caused by the lithium metal batteries. The shipment of the lithium batteries has not been prohibited on cargo planes, hence the problem still persists. The other disturbing concern with regard to the shipment of the lithium batteries is the chances that, if large quantities of lithium ion batteries were to ignite, they would be able to suppress the halon suppression system. The other danger posed by these batteries during shipment is the fact that, lithium-ion batteries can reach 1,100 degrees if they catch fire which is very close to the melting point of aluminum which is a key material in the construction of an air plane.
These has lead the Airline pilots Association to ask LaHood to ban all air shipments of lithium batteries till new regulations on transportation will have been adapted. Mark Rogers who happens to be the chairman of the ALPA's hazardous materials said," It's difficult to know what caused the (Dubai) fire, but it really doesn't matter because we know that a fire did break out on that airplane and the situation quickly became uncontrollable (Association, 2009)."
The safety directive is therefore urging air carriers to ask the shippers to clearly identify the large quantity battery shipments in the shipment document. They are also recommending the stowing of battery shipments in the cargo compartments right in the belly of the planes. This is because the halon gas fire suppression systems are. According to the FAA's safety directive, recent researches which were conducted by scientist showed that when batteries are exposed to high temperatures , they have a very high potential of creating the thermal runaway which is a chain reaction which leads to a self-heating thereby releasing the battery's stored energy (Hawley, 2009).
In Jan 2008, the U.S department of transportation made a ruling that passengers on board commercial aircrafts would on;ly carry their lithium batteries if the were installed in their devices of use. This ruling would reduce the chances of a battery short circuiting and causing fire. In addition to that, there is a limited number of spare batteries that may be transported in the carry-on luggage. Such spare batteries must be sealed either in their original protective packaging or in separate containers or even some plastic bags. As a matter of fact some countries has restricted the air shipping of the lithium or the lithium-ion batteries or even the products containing them such as laptops in their postal administration.
There has been put in place some rules which should be followed during the transportation of the lithium batteries or products which have these batteries installed for use. They include among others that one can bring batteries with up to 8-gram equivalent lithium content. All lithium ion batteries in cell phones are below 8 gram equivalent lithium content. Nearly all laptop computers also are below this quantity threshold. You can also bring up to two spare batteries with an aggregate equivalent lithium content of up to 25 grams, in addition to any batteries that fall below the 8-gram threshold.For a lithium metal battery, whether installed in a device or carried as a spare, the limit on lithium content is 2 grams of lithium metal per battery.
Restrictions on shipment of lithium-ion batteries have been put in place to try and avert the problems encoutered during their shipment. They include among the many precautions which have been put in place that; Anyone shipping lithium-ion batteries in large quantity is responsible to meeting the transportation regulations that have been stipulated . This applies to both the domestic and international shipments through whichever mode of transport ,be it by land, sea or air. Lithium-ion cells whose equivalent lithium content should exceeds 1.5 grams or 8 grams per battery pack must be shipped as those belonging to the class 9 miscellaneous hazardous material. Cell capacity and the number of cells in a pack determine the lithium content. Exception is given to packs that contain less than 8 grams of lithium content.
If, however, a shipment contains more than 24 lithium cells or 12 lithium-ion battery packs, special markings and shipping documents will be required. Each package must be marked that it contains lithium batteries.All lithium-ion batteries must be tested in accordance with specifications detailed in UN 3090 regardless of lithium content (UN manual of Tests and Criteria, Part III, subsection 38.3). This precaution safeguards against the shipment of flawed batteries. Cells & batteries must be separated to prevent short-circuiting and packaged in strong boxes.
Air transportation of Lithium-ion batteries is basically regulated in most countries, and by United Nations which works through the International Air Transportation Association (IATA), Dangerous Goods Regulations, among others safety regulatory authorities. Since battery packs or products which normally contains relatively large Lithium-ion battery packs have already showed the kind of threat they can pose, they need to be regulated on how they should be handled during transportation .With effect from January 1, 2008, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) working through the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) prohibited any loose lithium batteries in the inchecked baggage. This safety precaution also helps to safeguards against the shipment of those defective battery packs.
Some of those shipment precaution measures is that one should not ship or carry recalled or defective batteries in any aircraft. For this effect, a person should check the battery information and instructions as given by the manufacturer. In case the original packaging is not duly available for shipping the spare batteries they should be effectively insulated against any exposure of the battery terminals by isolating the batteries from contact with other batteries and on a metal for that matter. A person should not allow a loose battery to come in contact with any metallic objects (Krause, 2003).
IATA has come up with some Classification of the batteries as Medium and large capacity. Lithium-ion battery can be put in a class 9 which are usually miscellaneous dangerous goods. Shipments of such products then must be identified by a label ,Class 9 on the shipping package and this would lead to it to be considered as a restricted cargo in passenger aircrafts.