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FAA Reports Heat In Cargo Holds Can Ignite Laptop Batteries

timothy posted about 4 years ago | from the so-heat-ignites-things dept.

Power 103

SpuriousLogic writes "US aviation officials are warning air carriers that new research shows lithium batteries are sensitive to heat and can ignite in-flight if transported in cargo compartments that get too hot. The Federal Aviation Administration also acknowledged publicly for the first time Friday that a United Parcel Service 747-400 plane that crashed in Dubai last month killing both pilots was carrying a large quantity of lithium batteries. Since the early 1990s, there have been dozens of incidents of batteries igniting in flight. But it has not been known what triggered many of the fires. FAA now says recent research has identified heat as the trigger and is offering air carriers advice on how to reduce the risk of fire."

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That's like the Arabs saying no beheading for adul (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33843564)

That's like the Arabs saying no beheading for adultery. Those canadians are so full of it.

Oh? Forget it then.

Welcome to Ubuntu! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33843764)

Ubuntu is a Linux-based operating system consisting of Free and Open Source software for laptops, desktops, and servers. Ubuntu has a clear focus on the user and usability - it should "Just Work", even if the user has only the thinking capacities of a sponge. The OS ships with the latest Gnomrilla release as well as a selection of server and desktop software that makes for a comfortable desktop experience off a single installation CD. It also features the packaging manager apeghetto, and the challenging Linux manual pages have been reformatted into the new 'monkey' format, so for example the manual for the shutdown command can be accessed just by typing: 'monkey shut-up -h now mothafukka' instead of 'man shutdown'.

Absolutely Free of Charge

Ubuntu is Free Software, and available to you free of charge, as in free beer or free stuffs you can get from looting. It's also Free in the sense of giving you rights of Software Freedom. The freedom to run, copy, steal, distribute, share, change the software for any purpose, without paying licensing fees.

Free software as in free beer!

Ubuntu is an ancient Nigger word, meaning "humanity to monkeys". Ubuntu also means "I am what I am because of how apes behave". The Ubuntu Linux distribution brings the spirit of Ubuntu to the software world. The dictator Bokassa described Ubuntu in the following way:

"A subhuman with Ubuntu is open and available to others (like a white bitch you're ready to fsck), affirming of others, does not feel threatened by the fact that others species are more intelligent than we are, for it has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that it belongs to the great monkey specie."

We chose the name Ubuntu for this distribution because we think it captures perfectly the spirit of sharing and looting that is at the heart of the open source movement.

Ubuntu - Linux for Subhuman Beings

Last time I looked (3, Interesting)

jra (5600) | about 4 years ago | (#33843572)

You couldn't ship pets as cargo without special handling *cause the cargo compartments weren't heated*, and got down to 40F or below.

I find these conflicting reports most conflicting.

Re:Last time I looked (4, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | about 4 years ago | (#33843614)

Those are not necessarily conflicting ideas... if the temp in the cargo compartment is not controlled, it might be possible for it to get both extremely hot, or extremely cold at times, depending on local weather, whether the plane is on the ground or in flight, etc.

I imagine Lithium isn't the only thing that might catch on fire in extreme heat, however. Many electronic devices have "operating temperature ranges" and "storage temperature ranges"; although I suppose the airline doesn't care much if they break someone's checked iPod or computer due to letting the cargo temp be too extreme -- it's not until risk of fire, that they become more concerned, and think about banning anything containing Lithium batteries in checked luggage, due to the hazard,

Re:Last time I looked (5, Informative)

dgatwood (11270) | about 4 years ago | (#33843994)

How hot are we talking about? The safe maximum operating temperature for discharging a Lithium ion battery is typically 140 degrees Fahrenheit. There's no place on Earth that gets that hot naturally....

The notion that heat in cargo holds might ignite laptop batteries is patently absurd unless the cargo hold is on fire. It's more accurate to say that heat from an actively failing battery can start nearby cells on fire, which is a great big "duh".

Lithium ion battery fires are usually caused by dendritic growth [gizmag.com] inside the cell. There's no good way to determine when this might occur short of scanning electron microscopy, and there is no safe temperature at which this is not a problem....

The only time heat is a factor in Lithium cell failure is typically during a charge cycle (or occasionally during a very fast discharge cycle), when temperatures shoot way up into the mid 100s Fahrenheit. If they go way outside that range, they can go through thermal runaway.

That said, the charge circuits in the battery packs normally make this impossible unless a cell is defective. They shut down in such a way that the pack cannot be charged if the cell voltage drops below a minimum threshold because the charge current required would be high enough to pose a fire risk. Similarly, they disable charging above a maximum threshold to keep the batteries from becoming overcharged.

In short, if these things are burning up in flight, the cells were defective to begin with, period, and odds are good that they were improperly charged, too. There's just no way the cargo hold of an airplane gets hot enough to be a problem unless one of the cells shorts out internally, at which point the temperature really doesn't matter much anyway.

Re:Last time I looked (2, Interesting)

mysidia (191772) | about 4 years ago | (#33844110)

How hot are we talking about? The safe maximum operating temperature for discharging a Lithium ion battery is typically 140 degrees Fahrenheit. There's no place on Earth that gets that hot naturally....

Typically 140 degrees, but this is pretty close to the max temperature for survival of the battery. Just because this temp is in the "operating range" does not mean the temperature is safe, and won't contribute to thermal runaway, where pressure on a cell caused by heat and voltage causes the cell to burst

"Safe operating values" may not be the same in flight, also: the plane is in motion, and the cargo hold may be subject to air pressures you don't find naturally anywhere on earth's surface.

Lower air pressure surrounding the sealed cell might increase the chance that high pressure in a cell of the battery can explode or spoil the seal.

The temperature in the cargo hold can also be unnatural. Planes have electronics that produce heat, the skin of the plane absorbs some heat, and heat can accumulate if there is no air conditioning -- leading to the cargo hold becoming a quite unnatural oven in some case.

Re:Last time I looked (1)

hitmark (640295) | about 4 years ago | (#33844340)

Iirc, the pressure in the cargo hold is the same as in the passenger cabin. This because it is easier from a engineering point of view as the outer shell can be designed to behave as a pressure vessel.

Re: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33844634)

Does Boyle's law come into play? Is a runaway thermal situation more likely with reduced pressure, either because the batteries are in a pressurized cabin at reduced pressure or in an unpressurized cabin?

Re:Last time I looked (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 4 years ago | (#33848128)

The United Parcel Service 747-400F was a 747 in freighter configuration, e.g. No "passenger" cabin

Aside from the cockpit, almost the entire plane would be "cargo hold"

Anyways, just because some amount of air pressure is maintained, does not mean it is same as ground air pressure, or that is constant.

I'm thinking at low air pressure, it would be difficult for fire to spread.

But suppose pressure dropped during takeoff or landing. In theory, if the cargo hold is already at high temperature, this could facilitate thermal overrun, by increasing the leakage or allowing a cell to explode.

Once the pressure in the hold finally increases or equalizes, the overrun has already begun, and at that point, the increase in pressure just provides a higher concentration of oxygen to feed the flame.

Re:Last time I looked (1)

hitmark (640295) | about 4 years ago | (#33850706)

Valid points. I think cabin pressure is maintained at around 75% of sea level during flight.

And while speculating i guess a takeoff where the cabin pressure was not corrected in time, would cause a rise in temperature (tho the specific math escapes me). If it would be enough to get a cell to initiate thermal runaway i can't say.

Re:Last time I looked (1)

mpe (36238) | about 4 years ago | (#33847050)

"Safe operating values" may not be the same in flight, also: the plane is in motion,

The motion of the contents of a plane relative to the plane itself is likely to be zero

and the cargo hold may be subject to air pressures you don't find naturally anywhere on earth's surface.

Or possibly on some alternate Earth which has no point of it's surface higher than 8,000 feet. What is measured is known as "cabin altitude". If the plane is flying below 8,000 feet then the the cabin altitude is the same as the actual altitude. Some spring loaded valves ensure that the pressure within the plane cannon be less than that outside. In the cabin altitude goes above 10,000 feet then alarm sounds in the cockpit to tell the crew to put their oxygen masks on and do something about the problem. On a passenger plane a cabin altitude above 14,000 automatically deploys the passenger oxygen masks. (Possibly on the upper deck of a 747 freighter if it's fitted out similarly to a passenger version.)

Re:Last time I looked (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 4 years ago | (#33848224)

Or possibly on some alternate Earth which has no point of it's surface higher than 8,000 feet.

Where is this point on the ground on earth that's over 8000ft and experiences temperatures over 100 degrees fahrenheit for long enough periods of time that Lithium Ion battery manufacturers would need to take this into account?

Re:Last time I looked (1)

LandGator (625199) | about 4 years ago | (#33851638)

Aircraft aren't designed to be good reflectors of heat; they soak it up, especially UPS birds in brown livery. A big bird sitting on concrete turns into an oven in very short order, and I speak from experience.

Re:Last time I looked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33844310)

Lut Desert in Iran regularly tops 150F, mate.

Re:Last time I looked (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33844396)

Lut Desert in Iran regularly tops 150F, mate.

That would be a bad place to store your laptop batteries.

Re:Last time I looked (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about 4 years ago | (#33849582)

I think you got the conversion math wrong. It's (9/5)C + 32, not 2C + 32.

According to answers.com [answers.com] , the highest natural temperature ever recorded on Earth was a mere 136 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, unless you're on the ground, it's gonna be a lot colder than that. For a cargo hold in flight, I've read that the temperatures typically range between about 30 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 degrees Fahrenheit---in other words, much colder than inside the passenger compartment, not hotter.

Re:Last time I looked (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33844382)

How hot are we talking about? The safe maximum operating temperature for discharging a Lithium ion battery is typically 140 degrees Fahrenheit. There's no place on Earth that gets that hot naturally....

Try the inside of a parked car sitting out in the summer sun. The same principle applies to a cargo plane sitting out on the tarmac at an airport in the desert sun.

Re:Last time I looked (1)

mpe (36238) | about 4 years ago | (#33847192)

Try the inside of a parked car sitting out in the summer sun. The same principle applies to a cargo plane sitting out on the tarmac at an airport in the desert sun.

The only part of a plane which has similar amount of glass to a car is the cockpit. There's no separate temperature control for the cockpit, turning the AC on is going to cool the whole plane.
Dosn't look like Boeing fits that many windows if you order a freighter. Not like cargo tends to worry about the view :) Indeed the only one on the main deck I can see on photos of N571UP is in the door.

Re:Last time I looked (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about 4 years ago | (#33849768)

Try the inside of a parked car sitting out in the summer sun.

Uh, the inside of a car is hardly a natural environment. :-)

Besides, planes aren't made of glass, and this is talking about fires during flight, not on the ground. Most of the time, they're flying at 30,000 feet or so, where the ambient air temperature is well into the negative double digits (like fifty or sixty degrees below zero Fahrenheit).... The only way I can think of that they could get to 140 degrees would be if they did something insane like pressurizing the air without cooling it. And in that case, it would be way hotter than 140. In fact, it would make an excellent kiln.

Re:Last time I looked (1)

ultranova (717540) | about 4 years ago | (#33844752)

In short, if these things are burning up in flight, the cells were defective to begin with, period, and odds are good that they were improperly charged, too. There's just no way the cargo hold of an airplane gets hot enough to be a problem unless one of the cells shorts out internally, at which point the temperature really doesn't matter much anyway.

Do lithium batteries discharge over time on their own? Because if they do, and generate some heat while doing it, then all you have to do is pack enough of them tightly together to make the inside of the pile hot enough to catch fire. It's the same principle as why you can't store wood in too large piles: the heat from decomposition eventually makes the insides ignite.

Re:Last time I looked (1)

ThatOtherGuy435 (1773144) | about 4 years ago | (#33846416)

The self-discharge on Li-ion and Li-poly batteries is generally too slow to generate significant heat. The self-discharge rate as well as discharge cycle waste heat from them are significantly lower than other battery types, such as NiMH/NiCd or Lead Acid

One of the really nice things about Li-ion and Li-polymer batteries in the applications that I'm familiar with - radio control cars - is that even under pretty high loads they don't heat up. It's only when you get to loads in the 50-100C (Call it about 1kW load on a typical 'extended life' gaming laptop battery [10 amp hours]) for minutes at a time that they warm slightly.

Basically, unless they are self-discharging at the rate of an entire battery in less than a couple minutes (indicative of a defect, by the way), they aren't generating even a hundredth of the waste heat that you get in a wood pile.

Re:Last time I looked (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 4 years ago | (#33849090)

Li-Ion batteries DO self discharge. Also, the higher the ambient temperature, the higher the rate of self-discharge.

There is some (quite high) temperature at which the cell would rapidly discharge completely; this depends on the make of the battery.

Re:Last time I looked (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 4 years ago | (#33844886)

How hot are we talking about? The safe maximum operating temperature for discharging a Lithium ion battery is typically 140 degrees Fahrenheit. There's no place on Earth that gets that hot naturally....

Other than, say, the interior of a car in the sun...

Re:Last time I looked (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about 4 years ago | (#33856388)

And I repeat: There's no place on Earth that gets that hot naturally.... A car is not natural.

Re:Last time I looked (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about 4 years ago | (#33856460)

Oh, yes, and if the cell isn't defective, laptop-style Lithium ion batteries shouldn't experience thermal runaway until somewhere in the 250-300 degree Fahrenheit range. Even a sealed automobile in 125 degree outdoor heat won't get much hotter than about 150-160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Put simply, unless the battery is being charged at the time, a non-defective Lithium ion cell should never explode unless you toss it in an oven.

Extensive real world data to back this up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33845818)

Agreed, and there's a lot of real world experience to back this up. Certain laptops, namely the Desktop Replacement class (where you literally put a Desktop CPU into the small confines of a laptop), commonly have CPU temps well in excess of 140 F or 60 C all the time. This is mostly with the 65 nm class of CPU's; the more modern 45 nm (Wolfdale, etc) tend to run notably cooler, about 10-20 C, but still in excess of 60 C when under load.

But the point is, we now have years of experience with really hot environments with Lithium batteries. The batteries are not catching fire everywhere. Keep in mind that the failures in this space are such that the graphics cards get warped(!) after a couple of years. The batteries also fail faster, but not catch on fire. I have no idea how many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of these systems are out there.

The FAA is way off base if they think that the cargo space can be a more serious threat than what's been going on in the confines of these systems.

Re:Last time I looked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33848370)

It's not a problem, unless something is already on fire. That's the problem. The batteries then feed the flames and make a possibly controllable incident catastrophic.

Re:Last time I looked (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | about 4 years ago | (#33848566)

remember too, that the cargo hold may be unpressurized... which means at 35,000 feet the Lithium-ion batteries are going to leak hydrogen causing more of a fire hazard as they're usually not rated for operation above 10,000 feet and the chemical reactions go all wonky.

Re:Last time I looked (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about 4 years ago | (#33856428)

Actually, if the batteries vent their gas, the reactions stop cold. That's why some lithium ion batteries have pressure relief valves.

Also, are you sure about the hydrogen thing? I know lead acid and NiMH batteries vent hydrogen, and some lithium ion batteries vent HCN (hydrogen cyanide), which burns pretty easily, but I couldn't find anything about any of them venting hydrogen....

Re:Last time I looked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33858450)

> I imagine Lithium isn't the only thing that might catch on fire in extreme heat, however.

Word, Bro. Respect.

Re:Last time I looked (2, Insightful)

mr_mischief (456295) | about 4 years ago | (#33843642)

Don't think "too hot" or "too cold" exclusively. Think "poorly controlled temperature and ventilation". A cargo hold can be too hot, too cold, have too little air circulation for pets, and apparently can be hot enough to cause cargo that would be safe in the cabin into a crash hazard.

Also remember that with delays planes are often on the tarmac or taxiway for hours at a time in the sun with the checked baggage on them but no people. I doubt they're going to air condition the holds in case your laptop is on there. It's better to have special handling procedures for what can be a hazardous cargo.

Re:Last time I looked (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about 4 years ago | (#33843780)

It has been getting hotter lately.

Re:Last time I looked (4, Informative)

Flying Weezel (1665495) | about 4 years ago | (#33843802)

it depends on which cargo hold your stuff is put in on an airplane. On my aircraft, the forward hold is heated & pressurized, and the aft hold is not.

here's how the bins (as we call them) are pressurized/heated. the air that comes out of the packs is routed through the cabin, then flows through the cargo bin before being dumped overboard through the pressurization valve. so while the bin is heated, there is no direct control of the heat like the cabin. we have charts in our manuals that will tell us the temp of the bins based on the outside air temp, so we can tell whether or not its safe to put Fido in the cargo, but otherwise we have no direct way of monitoring the cargo compartment temp.

Re:Last time I looked (1)

cbope (130292) | about 4 years ago | (#33845300)

While I don't doubt you know what you are talking about, how exactly can air that has been used to heat/cool the passenger compartment, which must be kept around 20 degrees C, suddenly become much hotter when it reaches the pressurized hold? Unless this air is passing through a compressor of some kind that really jacks up the pressure resulting in heat, there is no way that the air arriving to the hold is going to be that hot after coming from the passenger compartment. If anything the outside temp while at altitude will have a negative effect on hold temperature (cooling it), not a positive one (heating it). I can understand heat could be a problem if the plane is parked for long periods in the sun on a hot day in the southern hemisphere, but not while in flight.

Just doesn't make sense and seems to defy physics.

Southern only? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33846244)

So you're saying this wouldn't be a problem in the northern hemisphere? Interesting...

Re:Last time I looked (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 4 years ago | (#33844342)

I know that, during the summer, Delta Air Lines will have pet embargoes to and from certain destinations because of the heat as well. It's not necessarily the temperature in the air or at the destination either, although that is a factor. Remember, cargo is loaded as early as an hour before departure. Temperatures outside on the ramp in Atlanta can reach well over 100. Inside a cargo compartment it can get even worse.

Re:Last time I looked (1)

Flying Weezel (1665495) | about 4 years ago | (#33845542)

as Nidi says, it can get really hot on the ramp. i know when its hot out and we've shut down the APU, the empty airplane goes from a comfortable 75 to almost 90 in about 15 minutes. that's with the doors open. if they load the cargo early & close the door, there is no airflow whatsoever in there until we turn on the packs.

here's what i fly: http://www.airliners.net/photo/Delta-Connection-(Shuttle/Embraer-ERJ-170-200LR-175LR/1783452/M/ [airliners.net]

i would guess that its possible to get a thermal runaway in a defective battery started when its hot on the ground and buried in the middle of the pile of luggage, then have it continue after takeoff once the plane has cooled down.

Re:Last time I looked (1)

sribe (304414) | about 4 years ago | (#33848728)

Well then, the last time you check must have been a long time ago ;-)

Re:Last time I looked (1)

Bungie (192858) | about 4 years ago | (#33850524)

In a place like Dubai the airport is probably pretty busy and it's very hot on the ground. It gets hot enough in the cabin sometimes when you're stuck sitting on the runway for a while, and I'm sure the cargo compartment probably heats up pretty good too.

Of course when the plane is at cruising altitude the air around the plane is incredibly cold and the cargo compartment would be too if it's not heated...

Theory only (4, Funny)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 4 years ago | (#33843576)

In reality, a checked laptop has never actually made it as far as the cargo hold.

Re:Theory only (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 years ago | (#33843670)

Funnily enough mine did in Adelaide about four years ago. Waiting for the plane the airline announced a hold. They had to change a wheel apparently but I watched the plane and no wheels where touched. On arrival in Melbourne the laptop was warm and the battery was totally flat. My guess is that security left it running because they didn't know how to shut down mandrake.

Re:Theory only (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | about 4 years ago | (#33843700)

I've never been to Australia, but in the US a flight number and a particular aircraft have only a very loose connection to one another. I've had flights delayed while "our" plane was used to carry some other flight with more passengers or which could still be made on time while "their" plane was fixed in the hangar and then used for my flight. I've seen flights outright cancelled, and they'll cancel the flight that causes the least hassle to cancel and announce for some other flight's passengers to board at the gate where the fuming passengers are sitting, waiting to see which hotel they'll be in until on of the next day's flights.

There's a good chance they had some other plane being worked on which would have suddenly become your flight's plane if it wasn't fixed in time. It's better for their on-time percentage to have one really late flight than to have one plane cause a backup of several flights.

Re:Theory only (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 years ago | (#33843710)

Thats generally true here too, but Adelaide is a small place. When you wait at the gate you can see the plane right there through the windows and you walk out to it rather than using an air bridge.

Re:Theory only (1)

Radar Penguin (878132) | about 4 years ago | (#33844294)

Funnily enough that must have been the last time your were there. Aeorbridges all round now.

Re:Theory only (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 4 years ago | (#33844288)

True. Any idiot who checks a laptop is begging to have it stolen, broken, or both.

Re:Theory only (1)

Paradise Pete (33184) | about 4 years ago | (#33844364)

Any idiot who checks a laptop is begging to have it stolen, broken, or both.

Or simply chooses not to live constantly on the defensive. Yes, sometimes bad things happen, but It's much nicer in the long run to just do the things you want to rather than constantly sacrifice ease and convenience for fear of losing an item or two.

Re:Theory only (1)

moonbender (547943) | about 4 years ago | (#33844398)

That's a good philosophy, but it only works as long as you prevent the occassional incident from being a catastrophe. A laptop is just expensive, the data on it with no back up might be priceless...

Re:Theory only (1)

arkenian (1560563) | about 4 years ago | (#33845940)

That's a good philosophy, but it only works as long as you prevent the occassional incident from being a catastrophe. A laptop is just expensive, the data on it with no back up might be priceless...

*shrugs* Data on it with no backup WILL be lost eventually -- and most highly volatile or new data can be reconstructed. Shit happens, you deal with it, and that's life. (and yes, I HAVE had my laptop stolen (and felt pretty violated for a while), though not in an airport, and this is still my philosophy.)

Re:Theory only (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33845476)

as a delta ramp agent, I'll tell you right now, if it can break due to being thrown, do not put it in your checked luggage.

Your Mama (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 4 years ago | (#33850322)

Or simply chooses not to live constantly on the defensive.

I guess you must have relatives that sell laptops, with advice like that.

It's not being "defensive" to think that a delicate electronic device held within a flimsy container that will by the very nature of luggage be battered, and almost unprotected from thievery come to harm. It's simply being realistic.

Plus who doesn't want a laptop with them when traveling? What good is it doing you in the hold?

Re:Theory only (1)

toddestan (632714) | about 4 years ago | (#33851968)

If you check a laptop, there is a significant chance it's not making it to your destination in working order, or even at all. Baggage handlers are not gentle, and theft is rampant. It's not like terrorism where people are all worked up over something that has an almost zero chance of occurring.

Re:Theory only (1)

Paradise Pete (33184) | about 4 years ago | (#33852506)

If you check a laptop, there is a significant chance it's not making it to your destination in working order, or even at all.

I frequently make long international flights involving two plane changes. I used to carry my laptop and use it during the layovers. Once I got an iPad I no longer had a specific need to use the laptop during that time, but still needed to take it with me on the trip. It's annoying to lug around, especially during those long hurried walks to get to the next gate, and so I decided to being putting it in my checked luggage. It's reasonably well protected with an extra padded case and a couple of towels.

So far it has been on 24 different planes without incident. Maybe I'm just getting lucky, but if I lose it I lose it. It's not the end of the world. And I enjoy the freedom of not having to lug it around. I know there's a cost involved, but making one's life a little easier seems to me to be a pretty reasonable thing to spend money on.

Obligatory XKCD (4, Funny)

Mad Merlin (837387) | about 4 years ago | (#33843578)

Re:Obligatory XKCD (1)

Tiger4 (840741) | about 4 years ago | (#33843992)

I went looking for it, but you found it first. Congratulations Sir or Ma'am!

Sir, You cant carry those on..... (2, Insightful)

rajeevrk (1278022) | about 4 years ago | (#33843602)

How many times have i heard that when carry my spare laptop batteries(yes, i used to catty a laptop with 2 spares, back in the days of power hungry P-4 Laptops:).

Just goes to show you that security while flying is about 75% blind luck, 24% the bad guys incompetence, and 1% current airport security(At least here in india).

Re:Sir, You cant carry those on..... (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | about 4 years ago | (#33844322)

Spare batteries? Yes, I could see them not letting you bring them along. But the laptop itself? Never had a problem. Even have a laptop bag that doubles as a purse and is both big enough to actually carry useful stuff, but small enough to pass carry-on rules, and never had issues with it.

Come to think of it, I've never had an airline count my laptop bag in the carry-on, specifically because they didn't want to take responsibility for it if it was checked. And yes, I have flown recently.

Re:Sir, You cant carry those on..... (1)

rajeevrk (1278022) | about 4 years ago | (#33850012)

Spare batteries? Yes, I could see them not letting you bring them along. But the laptop itself? Never had a problem. Even have a laptop bag that doubles as a purse and is both big enough to actually carry useful stuff, but small enough to pass carry-on rules, and never had issues with it.

Yep, It's the spare batteries they object to, each time, not the laptop :( That's a bummer when i'm on a 1 stop flight from Patna to Mumbai, and can use the lappy only for the first leg.

Come to think of it, I've never had an airline count my laptop bag in the carry-on, specifically because they didn't want to take responsibility for it if it was checked. And yes, I have flown recently.

In India, You are allowed 1 Carry on Case, 1 other piece of luggage, including a coat-bag, valise or briefcase OR laptop bag, and in addition, a reasonable amount of reading material. I usually travel with my hands full :)

Re:Sir, You cant carry those on..... (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 4 years ago | (#33844330)

Well if you check them in, they could more easily steal stuff... Over here, people's cameras etc regularly get stolen when going through the airport baggage system.

On the bright side it stops them from exploding in the plane of course ;).

RTFA? (5, Interesting)

nmb3000 (741169) | about 4 years ago | (#33843634)

Wow, so apparently TFS == TFA (which in turn is nothing but a copypasta of an AP release [google.com] from earlier today. Is there really no more information on this? For example, how hot is too hot? My laptop gets pretty freaking hot sometimes and I'd guess a fair bit of that heat finds its way into the battery.

Doing some quick looking, I came across a study which exposed lithium batteries to fire and heat [faa.gov] (PDF). On page 32-34 it says (paraphrased):

- Heated cells vent flammable electrolyte gas
- Cells begin venting at approx 470-500 Deg F
- The electrolyte gas occasionally exploded
due to hot surface ignition
- Cells produce a pressure pulse when venting
- As little as four cells can raise the pressure in a
sealed 10m cubed chamber by one psi.

Kind of interesting. It looks like I probably don't need to worry about my laptop's head igniting the battery, but it does sound like either some batteries are a lot more susceptible to heat, or airplane cargo compartments get really hot. I would guess a lot of other stuff doesn't like being stored at those kinds of temperatures either. A quick look indicates most plastics melt at about 300-450 degrees F [machinist-materials.com] . In fact, ABS plastic (usually used in laptop battery enclosures) melts even lower at 221 degrees F [dynalabcorp.com] .

~500 degrees F is hot.

Re:RTFA? (1)

dragoneye1589 (970098) | about 4 years ago | (#33843740)

Yeah, this is why I was confused by this report. Lithium-ion cells have to get VERY hot in order to vent, and even then, they have multiple safety systems that attempt to prevent failures that could start a fire. If cargo compartments were getting hot enough to set cells off there would be complaints about many other things melting first. I would be surprised if the cargo compartments even reach 60 Celsius (140 F) which are within the operating bounds of lithium-ion cells (though at seriously reduced performance).

The only reason I could possibly see a higher incidence of cell explosion when on aircraft is if the cell was in a non-pressurized compartment such that the sealed cell expanded in such a way that an internal short was caused in the cell causing a fire. Even that would require the failure of at least one safety feature on the cell.

Re:RTFA? (3, Informative)

tweak13 (1171627) | about 4 years ago | (#33843874)

TFA is bullshit. The FAA report says that lithium batteries pose a hazard if heated by a fire from another material in the cargo hold. I guess "Heat in Cargo Holds Can Ignite Laptop Batteries" is accurate if you just forget to mention that the heat the FAA is talking about is coming from flames. See my other comment for a link to the actual report.

Re:RTFA? (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 4 years ago | (#33844122)

The only reason I could possibly see a higher incidence of cell explosion when on aircraft is if the cell was in a non-pressurized compartment such that the sealed cell expanded in such a way that an internal short was caused in the cell causing a fire.

Ah yes, pV=nRT. Of course, increasing temperature while simultaneously reducing air pressure is a neat trick in an airplane unless you're on a tarmac in Denver. Even then it doesn't seem like enough.

Re:RTFA? (1)

mpe (36238) | about 4 years ago | (#33846868)

Yeah, this is why I was confused by this report. Lithium-ion cells have to get VERY hot in order to vent, and even then, they have multiple safety systems that attempt to prevent failures that could start a fire. If cargo compartments were getting hot enough to set cells off there would be complaints about many other things melting first. I would be surprised if the cargo compartments even reach 60 Celsius (140 F) which are within the operating bounds of lithium-ion cells (though at seriously reduced performance).

On a freight aircraft cargo is carried on the main deck. The lower holds may not be used at all due to ease of loading/unloading.

The only reason I could possibly see a higher incidence of cell explosion when on aircraft is if the cell was in a non-pressurized compartment such that the sealed cell expanded in such a way that an internal short was caused in the cell causing a fire. Even that would require the failure of at least one safety feature on the cell.

This would require this 744F (or indeed any 747 ever made) to have such a "non-pressurized compartment" in the first place. The entire fuselage is one pressure vessel. The only way that a battery could encounter a pressure lower than that at 8,000 feet is was on the outside of the plane. (So far as I know Boeing do not offer a "roof rack" as an option.) Though then the temperature is likely to be closer to minus 60 Celsius.

Lithium got you down? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33843654)

I don't believe it.

(pops more lithium)

Re:Lithium got you down? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 years ago | (#33843672)

Police should be told not to tase you. It could end badly.

Re:Lithium got you down? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33844964)

Thank you, I'm still laughing :)

So that is what happened to my batteries... (4, Interesting)

Brett Johnson (649584) | about 4 years ago | (#33843662)

Several months ago, on a flight from Virginia to California, a zip-lock bag containing spare batteries for my phone and camera and several power&usb cables "disappeared" from my luggage. At first I thought I had left it behind, but that turned out not to be the case. A couple of months later, I had a nearly identical zip-lock bag in my carry-on (sans the camera battery, which I have not yet replaced). I was pulled aside for "extra scrutiny" specifically because of this bag. The TSA agent removed it, re-ran my luggage, and returned it to me. I can only deduce that the TSA "stole" my batteries and cables on the earlier journey, because nothing looks more like a bomb that a Nokia cell phone battery and a USB cable.

Re:So that is what happened to my batteries... (2, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 4 years ago | (#33843984)

A couple of months later, I had a nearly identical zip-lock bag in my carry-on (sans the camera battery, which I have not yet replaced). I was pulled aside for "extra scrutiny" specifically because of this bag.

I typically travel with more cables, chargers, and batteries than you can shake a stick at (Two cameras, an iPhone, a laptop, a hiking GPS and an Nuvi.) I've never been pulled for extra scrutiny - except the one time I was headed home for a funeral and had only my cell phone and laptop. I.E. don't try drawing a curve through a single data point.
 

I can only deduce that the TSA "stole" my batteries and cables on the earlier journey

Never mind you have absolutely zero evidence that is true.

Re:So that is what happened to my batteries... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33844594)

Into baggage system; has bag of stuff. Out of baggage system, no stuff. It's a pretty sure thing his bag didn't eat it. It doesn't really matter which group of uniformed airport employee/thugs took it, since they're basically the same people. What's your other possibility?

Re:So that is what happened to my batteries... (1)

penguinchris (1020961) | about 4 years ago | (#33844702)

+1 - I fly with a ridiculous assortment of cables and spare batteries as well (2-3 cameras with two extra batteries each, two cell phones with extra batteries, a laptop, a sony e-reader, sometimes a hiking gps, all of the chargers and cables that go with those things, and other stuff I'm probably forgetting), I fly quite frequently, and I never have a problem. I used to sometimes get extra scrutiny and hand-searches of my DSLR lenses, but those must be getting a lot more familiar to the TSA recently because they don't seem to raise any eyebrows anymore. Even back when they did, usually they just would put my bag through the x-ray a second time (at a different angle I presume) rather than hand searching. I got the explosives swab check twice, but I was pre-selected for additional screening.

Also, one time I put a PS3 and all the controllers and cables and everything in checked luggage, on two flights (a round trip). I was kind of expecting it to get stolen, but it wasn't ;) That said, I know things do get stolen by baggage handlers and I don't put anything valuable in checked luggage if I can avoid it. I think the parent's assertion that it was stolen (or confiscated) is probably valid, lack of direct evidence aside.

Re:So that is what happened to my batteries... (1)

cbope (130292) | about 4 years ago | (#33845378)

Interesting. I thought the TSA were required by law to put a notice in your luggage if they open it for extra inspection, let along removing something without permission and not notifying you. I know that I have sometimes found these notices in my checked bags. Basically it tells you the TSA searched your bag, what your rights are, who to contact if you have questions on the inspection, etc.

I have a real problem that the TSA, or anyone else for that matter, would have carte blanche to search bags and remove items without notification. Not because I might be hiding something, but because it's a courtesy to let you know it has been searched. Not to mention, they should be liable if they were to break or steal something. I know this is stretching it a bit, asking the TSA to be responsible, but they are a government organization paid for by tax dollars. They are no more above the law than the police.

Smells like a thief stole you stuff, regardless if he/she was working for TSA or not.

Re:So that is what happened to my batteries... (1)

rcw-home (122017) | about 4 years ago | (#33845916)

Smells like a thief stole you stuff, regardless if he/she was working for TSA or not.

Airports always tell you never to leave your baggage unattended. If a TSA employee stole your stuff, it's the TSA's fault. If the TSA left your baggage unattended and another thief stole your stuff, it's the TSA's fault. This is a security issue - if a rogue employee can get away with taking stuff from your luggage, they can put whatever they want *in* your luggage too.

Re:So that is what happened to my batteries... (1)

Technician (215283) | about 4 years ago | (#33852556)

When I travel, I don't use TSA locks. I don't use locks at all. I tie the clasp with mason line and apply a folded over mailing label over the knot with my name and photo on it along with "Packed and sealed by owner" printed on it. I carry extra string and seals in my shirt pocket for the occasional bag inspection at the xray. To date, I have never had a bag missing the seal at my destination.

TFA Says nothing about laptop batteries (4, Informative)

Rosyna (80334) | about 4 years ago | (#33843680)

Metal Lithium batteries!=Lithium-Ion batteries used in laptops. Metal Lithium batteries are too dangerous to be used in laptops.

Re:TFA Says nothing about laptop batteries (2, Informative)

troll8901 (1397145) | about 4 years ago | (#33843706)

In other words, this article has absolutely nothing to do with laptop batteries.

A simple search for Lithium vs Lithium Ion [google.com] leads to explanations of differences between the two.

Re:TFA Says nothing about laptop batteries (5, Informative)

tweak13 (1171627) | about 4 years ago | (#33843844)

The summary is basically a complete failure to understand the issue. Actual advisory here. [faa.gov]

Basically what this says is, a fire in a cargo compartment could easily heat lithium batteries to the point that they cause explosions and large secondary fires. Also, the fire suppressant commonly used in cargo bays may not control a lithium fire. Thirdly, shorted lithium batteries may get so hot that they ignite other materials around them, even if they don't catch fire themselves. Lithium-Ion batteries are also mentioned, basically restating the above but suggesting that existing fire suppression can more easily control a fire from a lithium-ion cell.

In the end, the recommendation is to change reporting rules so that lithium batteries in cargo must be reported to the pilot in command. Effort should be made to carry them in cargo bays with sufficient fire extinguisher capability. Also mentioned is storing them in containers designed to keep fire or explosion contained, and that existing containers will not do this.

It is even specifically noted that this advisory applies to bulk shipments and does not include batteries brought aboard by passengers.

The FAA does. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33844270)

Metal Lithium batteries!=Lithium-Ion batteries used in laptops. Metal Lithium batteries are too dangerous to be used in laptops.

Metal lithium batteries are a Class 9 Miscellaneous Dangerous Good as well as Cargo Aircraft Only. As such they must be on the NOTOC (notice to captain) and cannot be on passenger aircraft.
Lithium ion batteries are also Class 9 Miscellaneous, but depending on the size of the battery, number of batteries per individual box, packaging and so on can either be classified as being an excepted quantity (meaning they are not listed on the NOTOC) or they will show up on the NOTOC.

The loophole is that you can have, for example, a 5000 pound pallet or container full of cellphones or laptops with batteries, but since they're all individually packed in separate boxes they can each count separately as an excepted quantity and go unreported to the captain and are unlisted on haz-mat summaries.

Power (1, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 years ago | (#33843726)

If airlines provided power to every seat (not just business class) then fewer people would need batteries, and flying might be safer over all.

Re:Power as a Weapon (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | about 4 years ago | (#33843884)

If airlines provided power to every seat (not just business class) then fewer people would need batteries, and flying might be safer over all.

Not as long as a USB cable can be used as a garrote.

Re:Power as a Weapon (1)

joebagodonuts (561066) | about 4 years ago | (#33844528)

Yeah, that would be pretty scary. *rolls eyes*...That is about as likely to happen as a laptop bettery bursting into flames and taking a plane down study. Not impossible, but highly unlikely.

Re:Power (1)

PPH (736903) | about 4 years ago | (#33846464)

Faulty logic. Provide power to each seat and passengers will put their spare batteries in checked luggage. In the cargo hold. No seat power means they have to carry their spares on with them, keeping them in conditioned air.

Re:Power (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 years ago | (#33847714)

I can see your point. My uncle used to fly for various airlines. In one country where some people routinely carried guns there was a special box on board for weapons. The captain had the key. Maybe there should be special storage for certain types of energy storage devices. Not just batteries. OF course if that box goes up...

Re:Power (1)

PPH (736903) | about 4 years ago | (#33848650)

Batteries are safer in carry on luggage than in checked luggage. No special box needed. If a briefcase or backpack starts smoking while under a seat or in an overhead bin, it will be seen (smelled). If it catches fire buried in checked luggage, it will be a while before the temperature rise triggers extinguishers. And then what? Its still buried in the luggage. In the cabin, you can toss it in the galley oven and let it smoke.

Reminds me of the (2, Interesting)

AHuxley (892839) | about 4 years ago | (#33843734)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_African_Airways_Flight_295 [wikipedia.org]
A South African commercial flight (Flight 295/The Helderberg) suffered a catastrophic in-flight fire in the cargo area and crashed into the Indian Ocean.
Parts recovery from the Boeing 747-244B Combi was at a depth of 4,900 metres (16,100 ft).
What caused the hot fire was never really exposed even after the change of government.
South Africa might have needed exotic at the time new air defence devices ie new/parts for High Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles?

an the really original press release + report (1)

CBravo (35450) | about 4 years ago | (#33843754)

http://www.faa.gov/news/press_releases/news_story.cfm?newsId=11960

Hmm giving idea to terrorists? (1)

vikisonline (1917814) | about 4 years ago | (#33843794)

Thats pretty, bad although I highly doubt it could really get that hot during flight. I never heard of people complaining of molten stuff. More importantly... In a way we are really afraid of terrorists (this is bs to me) but then they publicly announce, weaknesses in current security, since heat wont but a short can easily cause this.... I don't understand...

Re:Hmm giving idea to terrorists? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 4 years ago | (#33843976)

Makes you keep your laptop in your hands, easy to spot a person of interest in a line.
vs. profile data and a bag opened pre flight as a best guess.
Can put your face and "personality" with the laptop and any data can be cloned after been pulled aside for a chat.
Less a weaknesses I guess, more a 'crisis' to allow for better data mining?

Icarus (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | about 4 years ago | (#33843838)

That what you get for flying up there that much closer to the Sun.

Gee, a document carrier explodes over Arabia... (3, Interesting)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | about 4 years ago | (#33844056)

The distinction between Lithium Ion and Lithium Metal batteries is by no means made clear in the FAA report. [faa.gov] After reading through it, I have to disagree with others who suggest that this doesn't affect laptop batteries. It does.

Sorry, there may well be, (somewhere) a few government workers who have not been driven insane through the repeated need to exist in an increasingly cognitively dissonant state, but it's a solid bet that they are few and far between. Not counting those who are outright sociopaths, of course.

ANY advisory coming from the government is liable to be false, spin, or otherwise manipulative in nature. In this case, I think, it's probably a set-up for future controls.

It should also be noted that batteries on their own can't burst into flame due to environmental heating in a cargo bay. (It's COLD up there at 10,000 feet!) The FAA report was only talking about batteries catching alight in an already existing fire.

But that's not the way the media story tracked. Everybody assumed batteries burst into flame of their own volition. Public impression and emotional reactions are far more important than facts today. No doubt the idea of over-charged batteries bursting into flame will be floated by alarmists.

Just another way to put the squeeze on travelers. International travel will soon require that you navigate several paradoxical gauntlets just to get seated. Best to just stay at home where you won't see what the outside world is really like.

Fascist nations never like their people to travel. This is the same thing, with one subtle difference; they're trying to sneak it by as a series of rational measures we all voluntarily agree with rather than force it upon us overtly.

-FL

Re:Gee, a document carrier explodes over Arabia... (2, Insightful)

joebagodonuts (561066) | about 4 years ago | (#33844600)

No doubt the idea of over-charged batteries bursting into flame will be floated by alarmists.

FUD FUD FUD. No doubt the fear of over-reaction by the media will cause conspiracy theorists on internet boards to twist this to try and support their pet theory. The recommendations specifically cover bulk shipments on cargo carriers, not personal laptops from travelers on commercial flights. That is an important distinction. The former makes this a (nearly) no-brainer, and good work by the FAA. The latter interpretation of the headlines make this a great article to get everyone up in arms. Like it seems to have done to you.

Recommended Action: It is recommended that all air carriers institute additional procedures for safely transporting lithium batteries by aircraft:

1) Request customers to identify bulk shipments of currently excepted lithium batteries by information on airway bills and other documents provided by shippers offering shipments of lithium batteries.

2) Where feasible and appropriate, stow bulk shipments of lithium batteries in Class C cargo compartments or in locations where alternative fire suppression is available.

3) Evaluate the training, stowage, and communication protocols in your operation with respect to the transportation of lithium batteries in the event of an unrelated fire.

4) Pay special attention to ensuring careful handling and compliance with existing regulations covering the air transportation of Class 9 hazardous materials, including lithium batteries.

Re:Gee, a document carrier explodes over Arabia... (1)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | about 4 years ago | (#33846146)

It must be nice to be living in your version of reality where the erosion of our rights hasn't taken place and where the government doesn't tell lies.

Seriously; compare the world of today to the one of ten years ago in terms of control paranoia and witch-hunt jingoism. If you can't spot the difference, you're on drugs.

There are troops with machine guns walking around in New York today. That's not FUD. That's reality. Man up, put aside the cozy rationalizations and take a good look around you.

-FL

Re:Gee, a document carrier explodes over Arabia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33847142)

Would somebody mark the parent as a troll? Dismissing an advisory on _bulk_ Lithium transports with "ZOMG THE GUVMENTS IS TAKING MY RIUTS!" is no better than "ZOMG THINK OF THE CHILDREN".

Re:Gee, a document carrier explodes over Arabia... (1)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | about 4 years ago | (#33849364)

Would somebody mark the parent as a troll? Dismissing an advisory on _bulk_ Lithium transports with "ZOMG THE GUVMENTS IS TAKING MY RIUTS!" is no better than "ZOMG THINK OF THE CHILDREN".

You think an industry which, based on stupid thinking, will no longer allow you to carry bottled water onto a flight is sane enough to not flip out over batteries which do in fact explode from time to time?

Or are you one of those people Socrates would have easily convinced of patently ridiculous things simply because each step toward madness seemed reasonable?

We have plenty of evidence of crazy government behavior. PLENTY of it. I don't trust government officials to be smart or rational. Do you?

Pay attention.

-FL

Re:Gee, a document carrier explodes over Arabia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33844778)

"Public impression and emotional reactions are far more important than facts today."

Bingo, you just explained Space Nutters.

ahhh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33844074)

So the cargo compartment is getting hotter then a laptop when running under full load? This can't be good for the battery so this their own fault for not transporting goods properly.

New TSA line: (2, Funny)

Culture20 (968837) | about 4 years ago | (#33844104)

"Sir, please confirm that your laptop doesn't have enough stored power to boot up." potentially followed by "Please boot up your laptop". Hope you didn't forget you charger!

Oh cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33844632)

AQ now has a new way to create a bomb. At the least, it can act like a trigger.

You already can't check Lithium Ion battries (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33850660)

You already aren't suppsoed to check any Lithium Ion batteries. They do say you can carry them on. Go figure.

Obligatory Steve Jobs jibe (1)

PensivePeter (1104071) | about 4 years ago | (#33857390)

They are just holding them the wrong way...
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