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29 March 2016 /

Newest issue of MRS Bulletin’s Energy Quarterly focuses on Li-ion battery safety

In January of 2013, fires broke out in at least four Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft that had just been introduced into commercial service. These fires were attributed to thermal runaway in backup lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, and for a time, grounded the entire fleet of Boeing 787 aircraft. 

The March issue of Energy Quarterly (EQ), a special section published in MRS Bulletin, focuses on energy safety with both an editorial and feature article.

Pushing the frontiers of lithium-ion batteries raises safety questions, written by Arthur L. Robinson and Feature Editor M. Stanley Whittingham, Binghamton University—one of the pioneers in the development of the now ubiquitous Li-ion batteries, and a leading world expert—explores the safety of lithium-ion batteries. 

As the appetite for portable electronics grows, so does the market for the rechargeable batteries used to run them. Billions of lithium-ion cells are being manufactured monthly, a figure that will more than double with massive new facilities under construction or planned.

The demand for cheaper and more powerful batteries has led some companies to cut corners, and failures to ensure their safety have been most recently linked to a series of explosions in electronics such as e-cigarettes and hoverboards. Many airlines have now banned these products from being carried onto aircrafts, and increasingly, these products are being banned on university campuses as well.

As stated in the article, “Lithium-ion batteries have been driving a portable electrical power revolution in consumer electronics, industrial equipment and medical instrumentation. But packing a lot of energy into a small volume is also what makes them dangerous if they are not treated with respect.” 

The feature explores the many factors, including materials, cell chemistry and design, that can affect lithium-ion cell battery safety. Another fire aboard a Boeing 787 at Boston’s Logan International Airport in 2014 was traced to errors in manufacturing, testing, inspection and documentation shortcomings—not just thermal runaway. 

An accompanying editorial by EQ Co-Chairs, George Crabtree, Argonne National Laboratory, and Elizabeth A. Kócs, University of Illinois at Chicago, also emphasizes the importance of energy safety.

We are in the midst of a tremendous energy transition, as renewable wind and solar energies replace fossil fuels, electric cars replace those that use gasoline, and large-scale battery storage begins to penetrate the grid. This transition means careful evaluations of safety hazards surrounding emerging technologies will be required, as they have been throughout history when new technologies have emerged.

Emerging safety issues should be identified and addressed at the R&D stage, where safety mitigation features can be designed from the start, rather than discovering safety issues at the product stage, states the editorial.

EQ aims to provide a comprehensive snapshot of the materials for energy field to a broad audience; from experienced researchers, to general readers with an interest in energy solutions.

EQ is always available for free to all on Cambridge Journals Online. Read all the articles from the March EQ here. 


Notes to Editors

For more information, please contact Joon Won Moon at or at +1-212-337-5941.

About MRS Bulletin

MRS Bulletin is one of the most widely recognized and highly respected publications in advanced materials research. Each month, the Bulletin provides a comprehensive overview of a specific materials theme, along with industry and policy developments, and MRS and materials-community news and events. Written by leading experts, the overview articles are useful references for specialists, but are also presented at a level understandable to a broad scientific audience.

In addition, bound within MRS Bulletin four times a year is Energy Quarterly (EQ). EQ offers interviews and analysis of materials solutions to the world's accelerating need for secure, affordable and environmentally sustainable energy.

MRS Bulletin is free for MRS members in a variety of formats—print, via Cambridge Journals Online (CJO), dynamic magazine edition and mobile app.

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About the Materials Research Society

The Materials Research Society (MRS) is an international organization of almost 16,000 materials researchers from academia, industry and government, and a recognized leader in promoting the advancement of interdisciplinary materials research to improve the quality of life. MRS members are engaged and enthusiastic professionals hailing from physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and engineering-the full spectrum of materials research.

Headquartered in Warrendale, Pennsylvania (USA), MRS membership now spans over 80 countries, with approximately 48% of members residing outside the United States. In addition to its communications and publications portfolio, MRS organizes high-quality scientific meetings, attracting over 13,000 attendees annually and facilitating interactions among a wide range of experts from the cutting edge of the global materials community. MRS is also a recognized leader in education outreach and advocacy for scientific research. 

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About Cambridge University Press

Cambridge University Press is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Dedicated to excellence, its purpose is to further the University’s objective of advancing knowledge, education, learning, and research. Its extensive peer-reviewed publishing lists comprise 45,000 titles covering academic research, professional development, more than 350 research journals, school-level education, English language teaching and bible publishing. Playing a leading role in today's international market place, Cambridge University Press has more than 50 offices around the globe, and it distributes its products to nearly every country in the world.

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Contact: Joon Won Moon at or at +1-212-337-5941.

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