The Boeing 787 Dreamliner was grounded in January due to a faulty battery design which led to electrical fires. Now, a redesign of those batteries may put the Dreamliner back in the skies soon.
Boeing's 787 Dreamliner was designed to be quite progressive. It is 20% more fuel efficient than Boeing's 767 (which the Dreamliner is due to replace), and is the first major airliner to be made primarily from composite materials. Unfortunately, for the past month, the Dreamliner has been grounded due to an electrical fault in the plane's lithium-ion batteries, which caused them to overheat and catch fire mid-flight.
The futuristic new 787 Dreamliner – that's one hot plane.
Lithium-ion batteries, like their cousins the LiPo batteries, have a very good capacity for storing energy, but that comes with the drawback of being somewhat volatile. Other airplanes use NiCd batteries. However, the batteries themselves aren't really at fault: Li-Ion batteries have made their way to laptops, cell phones and all manner of other electronic devices, proving that if handled properly, they don't pose any substantial danger. Thus, Boeing is not planning to replace the battery type, but rather, to redesign the way the batteries are stored on the plane.
A new proposal will redesign the batteries to have more spacing between the cells (reducing heat exchange and the potential of a fire spreading to other cells). Added heat sensors are also included in the proposal, as is a new casing which will reduce movement in the batteries during flight. As of now, the proposal isn't finalized, but Boeing has a massive team of tech experts and engineers working on the problem. Considering that the Dreamliner is Boeing's take on a next generation airliner, it's not surprising they want the problem taken care of and the 787 back in the skies.