Sure, the Boeing (NYSE:
) saga isn't the front page story that it was in January, but
anybody who is long the stock wants to see the Dreamliner flying
again. Traders are betting that the stock will see at least a
short-term bounce when the planes are flying again with paying
passengers on board rather than investigators.
But as the fire investigation drags on, it's becoming more
microscopic and less likely to be something that a quick trip to
the hanger will fix.
The newest theory reported by the
Wall Street Journal
is that dendrites are one of the main focuses of investigators
right now. Don't know what a dendrite is? Here's the
Lithium-ion batteries were first conceptualized in the late
1970s and are now used in everything from portable electronics to
cars and aerospace applications. They work by using lithium ions
to move current from the negative to the positive electrode
during discharge and from the positive to the negative electrode
But over time, after repeated charge and discharge, dendrites
) can form. Dendrites are tiny fibers that form on the
battery's anodes-the area of the battery where chemical reactions
occur. Dendrites can cause short circuits in the battery creating
rapid heat buildup leading to a thermal runaway-the process that
caused the fire in the Dreamliners, according to the NTSB.
If Dendrites prove to be the problem, that may create an even
larger issue for Boeing. Electrochemical engineers don't yet have
a solution for the dendrite problem. They've made progress but
most ideas are still theoretical.
reports that a prototype zinc-anode battery was developed at the
City University of New York that overcomes the dendrite problem
but that likely would not be a cost-effective option for years
into the future if at all.
Critics are asking if the FAA and Boeing put too much faith
(and maybe too much current) into these batteries due to
well-known safety concerns. In a 2010 article,
quoted Professor Clare Grey as saying, "Fire safety is a major
problem that must be solved before we can get to the next
generation of lithium-ion batteries and before we can safely use
these batteries in a wider range of transportation
focused on the batteries
from the beginning. As the systems that charged the batteries
were found to be functioning properly, investigators turned their
sites back to the physical makeup of the batteries.
Boeing is up fractionally in pre-market trading Tuesday.
(c) 2013 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment
advice. All rights reserved.
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