Michael Dell and the Curse of the Exploding Batteries
First his laptop, now his personal jet may belch fire
Call it the curse of the exploding lithium ion battery.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Michael Dell, the man, or MSD Capital, his personal investment arm, is on the list to get a Boeing Dreamliner 787.
Perhaps Dell's MSD arm is just taking a piece of the investment action in the Dreamliner, the Journal speculates, or perhaps Dell will be using it for some purpose.
We can envision Michael Dell flying around the country Bob Roberts style, with a flying office like Air Force One gives POTUS (that's President of the United States), or maybe just using it to haul bales of cash down to New York to take Dell, the company, private with the help of Microsoft and Silver Lake Partners.
The 787 Dreamliner made its first commercial flight back in October 2011, and at the time Boeing had 821 planes on order. The Dreamliner can carry 250 people and was designed using the latest and greatest CAD and simulation software. The "plastic jet" is manufactured with carbon fiber and other composite materials to reduce the weight of the craft.
Recently the 787 electrical power backup systems, based on large lithium ion batteries, have caught fire in two cases and that has forced the grounding of the fifty planes that Boeing has shipped to customers so far. The cause of the battery overheating and fires is being investigated, and no conclusions have been drawn as yet. Perhaps a call to Round Rock is in order.
This may seem like a bit of déjà vu to Dell, the man, who has been burned by lithium ion batteries in the past. Well, not literally, but certainly financially. Back in December 2005, Dell issued a recall on lithium ion batteries used in a number of its laptops, and shortly thereafter there was a wave of exploding laptop battery stories, including one UK homeowner who claimed his Dell laptop set his living room on fire. In August 2006, as this wonderful picture in The Telegraph captures , Dell had to issue the largest recall in computer industry history because the batteries were still going pop-pop.
No one was injured by the Dell laptop battery fires, and thus far, no one has been injured on the Dreamliners, either. That's the good news.
Maybe Dell should take the train. Unless the train has lithium ion batteries. A Chevy Volt is absolutely out of the question for Dell. Perhaps he should just ride a bike. ®
Given that the 777 is the very poster child for "don't outsource your core competency", I hope this causes Boeing a world of pain. It's the only way they'll learn.
"power backup systems"
The 'revolutionary' 787 uses electricity to power control surfaces, actuators, etc which have traditionally been powered hydraulically or pneumatically. The 787 also uses electricity for wing anti-icing, and...
The battery in question is nothing directly to do with that, no sensibly sized battery could provide anything like sufficient power.
The battery in question is used to provide power to start a (relatively) small gas turbine engine (the auxiliary power unit, which on the 787 is rated at 1100 horsepower) which itself provides power for all these electric gadgets when the main engines aren't running and the aircraft can't plug in to a ground power generator.
It's still looking not good for the Dreamliner and the regulatory authorities though, see e.g.
Re: I like my aircraft to have metal, not glorified plastic
Wood is a quite sophisticated composite. One thing about it is that it has virtually unlimited fatigue life due to its combination of stiff fibres and a flexible lignin matrix. The bad news is that it mostly doesn't like fresh water and is food for a lot of beasties, fungi and bacteria.
On a pedantry note, "carbon fibre" is not a composite as in the article. The whole idea of a composite is that it is made of several things to get the best overall results. The little boat I am building will have a core of two layers of mahogany to give stiffness with light weight, over which goes epoxy laminated kevlar for strength, some carbon fibre to put additional stiffness where needed, and some glass fibre for scrape resistance. Overall will go external coating to resist UV and fungus attack.
Some people use balsa for the core but I got a really good deal on the mahogany. It's a pity it won't be visible in the finished product, but I'll know it's there and that's what matters.
That's a composite. Materials to do what is needed where it is needed, held together in a matrix that binds everything together firmly enough to keep things where you want, but with enough flexibility to handle bumps, thermal expansion and vibration.
Making planes out of composites is a Good Idea, because aluminium is nasty stuff - limited fatigue life, prone to corrosion.
Using what seems to be the wrong kind of battery - perhaps not such a good idea.
Never mind fires
The spelling is fibre not fiber
Don't give me any of that nonsence about US spelling, it's simply wrong
Dell was the first I thought of too with the story of burning 787 batteries :)
I must admit that I'm quite curious to the outcome of the investigation.