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Cadex Electronics - Batteries in a Portable World

Cadex Electronics - Batteries in a Portable World



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Published by: api-26193001 on Oct 16, 2008
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Part One
Battery Basics Everyone Should KnowAuthor's Note
Battery user groups have asked me to write an edited version of
Batteries in a Portable World 
.The first edition was published in 1997. Much has changed since then.My very first publication in book form was entitled
Strengthening the Weakest Link 
. It was, inpart, a collection of battery articles which I had written. These articles had been published invarious trade magazines and gained the interest of many readers. This goes back to the late1980s and the material covered topics such as the memory effect of NiCd batteries and howto restore them.In the early 1990s, attention moved to the nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) and the articlescompared the classic nickel cadmium (NiCd) with the NiMH, the new kid on the block. Interms of longevity and ruggedness, the NiMH did not perform so well when placed against theNiCd and I was rather blunt about it. Over the years, however, the NiMH improved and todaythis chemistry performs well for mobile phones and other applications.Then came the lithium-ion (Li-ion), followed by the lithium-ion polymer (Li-ion polymer). Eachof these new systems, as introduced, claimed better performance, freedom from the memoryeffect and longer runtimes than the dated NiCd. In many cases, the statements made by themanufacturers about improvements were true, but not all users were convinced.The second edition of
Batteries in a Portable World 
has grown to more than three times thesize of the previous version. It describes the battery in a broader scope and includes thelatest technologies, such as battery quick test.Some new articles have also been woven in and some redundancies cannot be fully avoided.Much of this fresh material has been published in trade magazines, both in North Americaand abroad.In the battery field, there is no black and white, but many shades of gray. In fact, the batterybehaves much like a human being. It is mystical, unexplainable and can never be fullyunderstood. For some users, the battery causes no problems at all, for others it is nothing buta problem. Perhaps a comparison can be made with the aspirin. For some, it works to remedya headache, for others the headache gets worse. And no one knows exactly why.
Batteries in a Portable World 
is written for the non-engineer. It addresses the use of thebattery in the hands of the general public, far removed from the protected test labenvironment of the manufacturer. Some information contained in this book was obtainedthrough tests performed in Cadex laboratories; other knowledge was gathered by simplytalking to diverse groups of battery users. Not all views and opinions expressed in the bookare based on scientific facts. Rather, they follow opinions of the general public, who usebatteries. Some difference of opinion with the reader cannot be avoided. I will accept theblame for any discrepancies, if justified.Readers of the previous edition have commented that I favor the NiCd over the NiMH.Perhaps this observation is valid and I have taken note. Having been active in the mobileradio industry for many years, much emphasis was placed on the longevity of a battery, aquality that is true of the NiCd. Today’s battery has almost become a disposable item. This is
especially true in the vast mobile phone market where small size and high energy densitytake precedence over longevity.Manufacturers are very much in tune with customers’ demands and deliver on maximumruntime and small size. These attributes are truly visible at the sales counter and catch theeye of the vigilant buyer. What is less evident is the shorter service life. However, with rapidlychanging technology, portable equipment is often obsolete by the time the battery is worn out.No longer do we need to pamper a battery like a Stradivarius violin that is being handed downfrom generation to generation. With mobile phones, for example, upgrading to a new handsetmay be cheaper than purchasing a replacement battery. Small size and reasonable runtimeare key issues that drive the consumer market today. Longevity often comes second or third.In the industrial market such as public safety, biomedical, aviation and defense, requirementsare different. Longevity is given preference over small size. To suit particular applications,battery manufacturers are able to adjust the amount of chemicals and active materials that gointo a cell. This fine-tuning is done on nickel-based as well as lead and lithium-based batteries.In a nutshell, the user is given the choice of long runtime, small size or high cycle count. Noone single battery can possess all these attributes. Battery technology is truly a compromise.
During the last few decades, rechargeable batteries have made only moderate improvementsin terms of higher capacity and smaller size. Compared with the vast advancements in areassuch as microelectronics, the lack of progress in battery technology is apparent. Consider acomputer memory core of the sixties and compare it with a modern microchip of the samebyte count. What once measured a cubic foot now sits in a tiny chip. A comparable sizereduction would literally shrink a heavy-duty car battery to the size of a coin. Since batteriesare still based on an electrochemical process, a car battery the size of a coin may not bepossible using our current techniques.Research has brought about a variety of battery chemistries, each offering distinctadvantages but none providing a fully satisfactory solution. With today’s increased selection,however, better choices can be applied to suit a specific user application.The consumer market, for example, demands high energy densities and small sizes. This isdone to maintain adequate runtime on portable devices that are becoming increasingly morepowerful and power hungry. Relentless downsizing of portable equipment has pressuredmanufacturers to invent smaller batteries. This, however, must be done without sacrificingruntimes. By packing more energy into a pack, other qualities are often compromised. One ofthese is longevity.Long service life and predictable low internal resistance are found in the NiCd family.However, this chemistry is being replaced, where applicable, with systems that provide longerruntimes. In addition, negative publicity about the memory phenomenon and concerns oftoxicity in disposal are causing equipment manufacturers to seek alternatives.Once hailed as a superior battery system, the NiMH has also failed to provide the universalbattery solution for the twenty-first century. Shorter than expected service life remains a majorcomplaint.The lithium-based battery may be the best choice, especially for the fast-moving commercialmarket. Maintenance-free and dependable, Li-ion is the preferred choice for many because itoffers small size and long runtime. But this battery system is not without problems. A relativelyrapid aging process, even if the battery is not in use, limits the life to between two and three

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