Spare Batteries and Travel

By: Kevin Cantera

For all you mobile device lovers out there who also travel a lot, you should know about some new rules which took effect on Jan. 1, 2008 that prohibit air passengers in the U.S. from carrying spare lithium batteries in their checked baggage. The new restrictions, announced by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), are designed to decrease the danger of fire in aircrafts. Lithium batteries have been cited as a probable cause in several aircraft fires. Passengers will still be able to carry lithium batteries in checked bags if they are installed in a device like a laptop or digital camera.

But loose batteries will need to be put in a plastic bag and carried on the plane as hand luggage, the DOT said.

The danger of lithium batteries is that they can provide extremely high currents, and can expel a charge very quickly when short-circuited. A too-quick discharge of a lithium battery can cause dangerous overheating and can result in an explosion. In February 2006 a United Parcel Service flight landed at Philadelphia International Airport after the crew detected a fire in its cargo. The National Transportation Safety Board said later that it found several burned out laptop batteries on the plane, and could not rule them out as a possible cause of the fire.

The rules also limit each passenger to two "extended-life" lithium batteries. These are larger batteries with more than eight grams of equivalent lithium content. The complete list of restrictions can be found at safetravel.dot.gov.

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