Batteries in the News
As one who worked many years on lithium batteries, I have been
dismayed by the spate of recalls of lithium-ion batteries by the
likes of Dell, HP and other computer companies. As we’ve
noted earlier, the problem seems to have been a flaw in the
manufacture of the batteries that resulted in bits of metal that can
short out the batteries internally, leading to fire or explosion.
You can imagine my surprise when I saw an AP article in the
July 30 Star-Ledger by Yuri Kageyama. The article was
headlined “Hybrid train blows whistle on global warming in
Japan”. Following the lead of Toyota and its hybrid Prius, the
East Japan Railway Company was scheduled to put into service
this week a small two-car hybrid train on a 49-mile route in a
rural mountain resort area of Japan. The train seats 49 but will
hold over a hundred people including standees.
The train combines diesel and battery power, with the battery
being charged when the train slows down, much as the hybrid
auto’s battery is charged on braking. What surprised me is the
battery. It’s a lithium-ion battery mounted on top of the train.
Naturally, I’m wondering whether the battery consists of cells
made in the same manner as the cells in the computer and cell
phone batteries. Or is the design of the train batteries such that
there are no chances for metal shards to form and short out the
beattery? Aside from the obvious concerns given the recent
problems, I’m concerned about the temperatures reached by
batteries mounted on top of the train. I assume that, being in a
mountainous area the batteries don’t get too hot.
Another battery item made the headlines last week when Vice
President Cheney went into the hospital for a replacement of the
battery in his cardioverter-defibrillator. According to an AP
article by Deb Reichmann in the July 28 Star-Ledger, the device
was implanted in Cheney six years ago. Cheney thus provides a
highly public data point on the useful life of what I presume is a
lithium battery in his defibrillator. The lithium batteries in these
heart devices are not lithium-ion rechargeable batteries but are
nonrechargeable. I assume that the life of a defibrillator battery
will depend on if and how often it has to deliver a shock to the
heart. No such data were given for Cheney’s device.
The article in the paper implies that the surgeons somehow take
out the battery and replace it with a new one in the cardioverter-
defibrillator. I find this quite surprising, if true. The implanted
heart devices are hermetically sealed units and I find it hard to
believe that they don’t replace the old unit with a new one.
Finally, along medical lines, my wife has been in hospital and
rehabilitation settings for the past week, having had back
surgery. The surgery was of the “minimally invasive” type and
was supposed to be “same day” surgery. The former seems
accurate but the same day part is decidedly off the mark! Old
Bortrum has a lot to do and will sign off here. Honey, hope you
come home soon.
Allen F. Bortrum