Battery Technologies: Improving the Life of Your Battery

Archeological evidence indicates human’s use of battery power in some form or another dates back millennia, but modern technologies of battery production are now making strides in the markets with an ever-increasing demand of gadgets and battery power on the rise. But what do you do with your battery to make sure your battery lasts the longest?  Some ways of prolonging battery life have become myths that actually hurt batteries of a new technology. Read on to discover the different types of batteries available and how these different types behave and need to be treated.

The NiCd Battery

The NiCd (Nickle Cadmium) battery is one of the more popular early battery technologies available on the market. Manufacturers now tend to avoid using this technology for a number of reasons including its toxic nature and the environmental impact resulting when disposed of improperly. If you have a NiCd battery in your device, be sure to periodically allow it to discharge its energy completely before recharging. Not doing so will cause a ‘memory’ to form. This memory is actually the development of large crystals in the cell plates of the battery that prevent the amount of charge available over time. In addition, this battery’s self-discharge rate (the rate at which it’s energy decreases without being used) is quite high relative to other battery technologies. For these reasons, as a consumer, you should avoid products with the NiCd battery.

The NiMH Battery

The NiMH (Nickle Metal-Hydride) battery became a better alternative to its more toxic cousin, the NiCd.  It is far more popular battery, but the previous prevalence of the NiCd has affected consumers’ minds in how to properly maintain it. The NiMH battery, which is more common in cellular and mobile technologies, requires far fewer full discharges than the NiCd.  In fact, too many full discharges will decrease the life of the battery. Instead, shorter charge cycles are preferred, where the battery is again charged when it still maintains a 40% charge. Periodic full discharges are still necessary to prevent memory formation, but should not be practiced often. The NiMH is a bit more expensive of a battery, but it is much more environmentally friendly in disposal. Unfortunately, the self-discharge of the NiMH is higher than the NiCd.

The Li-Ion Battery

The Li-Ion (Lithium Ion) battery is currently the king of commercially available batteries on the market today in terms of performance and cost. The battery has a low self-discharge when not in use, when compared to both of the above batteries and does not require periodic full discharge as it exhibits no crystalline formation causing memory. The lack of crystal formation is a major benefit to users of this kind of battery over the others discussed here. Aging is a concern for Lithium Ion, as it is for each battery, but it appears that an age of 2 to 3 years is sufficient to significantly reduce the usefulness of the battery.  Lithium ion battery technology is currently under heavy research and development, with new technologies introduced once or twice each year, meaning the benefits of the battery will continue to increase while seeing costs decline.

Consumers are usually faced with maintaining these three battery technologies in their mobile devices and should take care to use proper handling for each type. NiCd batteries require frequent full-discharges to prevent crystalline memory formation. NiMH batteries should be charged when still at 40% capacity, but should also undergo a periodic full discharge. Li-Ion batteries do not need such maintenance schedules, but tend to be more expensive. All batteries should be recycled properly, but NiCd are particularly toxic.

This is a guest post by freelance writer Tom Clark  for Jonathan usually covers frugal living, technology and sustainability and loves to go for hikes in his free time.

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