Reliable lead batteries flying high as aircraft industry boost demand
A recent Research and Markets report predicts that lead batteries will see the highest growth out of all battery segments in the global aircraft industry, with a revenue of $560 million by 2030 – a jump from the $290 million recorded in 2020.
The total aircraft battery market is estimated to generate a revenue of $1,070 million by the end of 2030, which means the lead battery industry will take just over half.
Lead batteries are still the most common type used in general aviation and are used for emergency power, auxiliary power and engine starting. They are also used in military and civil aircraft. The Boeing 777 has three lead batteries in each aircraft to provide a back-up power supply for the fly-by-wire avionics in an emergency.
Lead batteries are America’s most recycled consumer product. With a 99% recycling rate, nearly all used lead batteries are recycled. Each year, more than 130 million used lead batteries are recovered and recycled in North America.
Recycled lead has a high intrinsic value, is infinitely recyclable, and is returned to the supply chain to make new batteries or other products. In the EU, air transport has seen progressive growth with air freight and mail transport becoming key sub-sectors. With this huge carriage of people and goods, the aircraft industry has a vital role in supporting Europe’s economic growth, while keeping Europeans moving safely.
All existing aircraft systems use electronics soldered with lead alloys and therefore must be repaired using these same lead alloys. Aviation systems are built and maintained by industrial personnel, ensuring that the general public has no exposure to these solder joints.
Beyond integrity of the solder joints, tin-lead alloy provides another important benefit – it helps to keep aircraft safe from a threat largely unknown outside the industry – tin whiskers. Tin whiskers are tiny, highly conductive hair-like structures that can grow between the closely-spaced circuitry of modern electronics. Tin whiskers can cause short circuits that destroy these critical functions, with potential for catastrophic consequences.
To date, no other material provides the proven safety and reliability of tin lead alloy solder. The electronics industry consumes just 0.5% of the world’s lead and the aerospace sector is a relatively small user of electronics. That means a very small amount of lead plays a significantly large role in keeping aircraft safe.
Read more on how lead batteries keep electric vehicles safe.