Lithium ion batteries banned from passenger aircraft holds

Grounded pending development of 'fire-resistant packaging'

The International Civil Aviation Organization has declared that as of 1 April, lithium ion batteries cannot be carried in the cargo holds of passenger aircraft, pending development of "a new fire-resistant packaging standard".

Back in October, the US's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it would back such a ban, while warning passengers not to pack spare lithium metal and spare rechargeable lithium ion batteries in their checked baggage.

The transport of lithium metal batteries in the cargo holds of passenger aircraft is already prohibited, Reuters notes. Both flavours of lithium battery can still be flown on cargo aircraft.

However, an unnamed "dangerous goods expert" told Reuters the lithium ion ban would be unlikely to improve passenger safety, due to "deliberate mislabeling by shippers".

He, or she, told the news agency: "When the industry banned the shipment of lithium-metal batteries, we saw instances of them being passed off as lithium ion batteries. Those people who are not complying now won't comply with a prohibition."

ICAO Council President Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu said yesterday the fire-resistant packaging is due by 2018.

Earlier this year, Stanford boffins revealed they'd been working on an alternative line of attack towards reducing the lithium ion blaze risk. Rather than simply attempting to suppress a fire with a fireproof container, their approach involves a pre-emptive approach using "a polyethylene film studded with nickel that covers the battery's electrodes".

While the nickel element conducts electricity, if the battery reaches 150°C, the polyethylene expands, breaking the electrical connection. ®

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