Posted on: 29 July 2015 by Mark Howells
Hamburg-based Innovint Aircraft Interior GmbH (Innovint) has designed a Containment Bag (CB) for personal electronic devices (PEDs) in case of an on-board fire caused by lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries which, according to the FAA, have been the reason behind 152 recorded incidents in-flight since 1991.
Innovint claims that whilst Li-ion batteries allow lots of energy to be stored in a small space, creating a high density of power perfect for smartphones and laptops, for example, they risk catching fire as a result of mechanical defects, incorrect charging or simply heat (a phenomenon known as ‘thermal runaway’).
As technology evolves, PEDs are increasingly common in the cockpit, cargo hold and the cabin, which further increases the risk of thermal runaway incidents. Innovint’s PED Containment Bag has been designed to minimise the implications of this scenario within the cabin to protect passengers and crew from injuries, as well as damage to the cabin environment.
The CB (pictured) is resistant to heats of up to 1,000 degrees Celsius (1.273 kelvin), enabling the crew to transport the defective PED safely to a fireproof place in the cabin, where it can burn out or be cooled down under their supervision.
Innovint conducted tests which showed Li?ion batteries can reach 700 degrees Celsius (973 kelvin) when set alight. In a separate test Innovint brought a 6Ah battery to thermal runaway by overloading it and placed it in the CB. The company recorded that the fire inside the CB reached a maximum of 480 degrees Celsius (753 kelvin). However, due to the bag’s insulating effect, the temperature on the outer side of the CB was reduced to 80 degrees Celsius (353 kelvin).
These tests show the CB can be handled even with a defective PED is inside, but only when crew are wearing fire?protection gloves and crew smoke hoods – accessories also provided by Innovint – as a precaution.
The tests also demonstrate that when a PED undergoing a thermal runaway is inside, no flames are present outside the bag; only smoke is released. Innovint claims its PED Containment Bag passed the test without any damage, only solely black soot indicating the stress the CB was exposed to.
Innovint says that immersing the CB into water or other non-flammable liquids also works to prevent battery cells from catching fire. The product also fulfils the regular Flammability test according to EASA CS 25.853(a).
Innovint CEO Manfred Gröning has confirmed the response from airlines has been positive, with Singapore Airlines, Finnair, Aer Lingus and Etihad (amongst others) having already started evaluation of the product.
The company offers a similar solution for electronic light bags (EFBs) contained in an aluminium box which can be locked. Innovint says this is to ensure there’s only one part to carry, which will make for a more straightforward handover during a flight crew change, eliminating the risk of losing certain items.
tGröning said his company initially began designing the products as a result of several requests from the business aviation industry, where the use of tablet computers as EFBs is more common than with commercial airlines.
ttThe first EFB kits have just been shipped to a business jet operator.
The launch of Innovint’s products come shortly after the British Airline Pilots’ Association released a statement encouraging airlines to instruct passengers to keep PEDs with them in the cabin rather than stowing them in hold luggage to reduce the risk of fire.
On 7 April, 2015, EASA issued a Service Information Bulletin (SIB) focusing on the dangers caused by Li?ion batteries on?board aircraft, recommending airlines follow procedures published in ICAO Doc. 9481?AN/928. Gröning says Innovint's PED Containment Bag is contributing to the further development of these procedures with a clear view towards protective equipment.
In an interview with Henry Canaday for a feature on Li?ion batteries for the January/February issue of Inflight magazine, Anthony Bell, president of Aerolithium, says there are numerous ways PED users can help avoid thermal runaway scenarios. These are the same precautions people should take on the ground and include allowing air to flow around equipment when in use, turning it off for a while to cool down if it feels abnormally hot and being aware not to crush the battery by dropping it somewhere inside the seat.