Article: Getting The Battery Chemistry Right
Power as a Life Motive
Without power, nothing moves. Even motor-driven systems must be refilled with their required fuel to spin the alternator or generator which powers the electronics. There are major engineering challenges behind getting power from the point of generation to the point of load. However, beyond the challenge of Green energy, nothing has captivated the industry quite as much as energy storage, especially for remote applications in devices and mobile systems.
Aside from exotic and over-the-horizon technologies like fuel cells and reflow/redox energy storage systems, batteries have generally been the preferred medium to keep electrons confined until needed. From the venerable and trustworthy lead acid battery to the latest proposed solid-state designs, a plethora of solutions based on different chemistries has seen service over the decades.
In the area of rechargeable batteries, there has been a steady migration as the industry has developed new chemistries and configurations to store and deliver energy as smoothly, efficiently, reliably, and safely as possible. In consumer devices, for example, devices have gone from nickel-cadmium through nickel-metal-hydride to lithium in its various forms. We’ve come a long way from the old zinc-carbon dry cell!
“Many designers do not realize that although a product may be medically compliant, if the external charger isn’t, the device isn’t either.”
Understanding the Power Chemistry
The mainstream typically keeps pace with migrating battery technology, and most devices on the market now use rechargeable batteries. This creates a two-fold challenge for the engineer: addressing a string of battery chemistries in legacy products developed over a manufacturer’s lifetime, and the need to select the best available chemistry for a particular application.
Understanding battery chemistry and testing and charging needs will ensure a product operates optimally and cost-effectively. Even a venerable and almost-vintage technology like lead-acid is finding a new lease of life beyond the automobile in applications like microgrid storage.
Under certain conditions, some battery chemistries are at risk of thermal runaway, leading to cell rupture or combustion. As thermal runaway is determined not only by cell chemistry but also by cell size, design, and charge/discharge capabilities, understanding has given battery chemistry and the best charging methodology to use can make all the difference between success and failure.
This is even more so in critical applications like medical devices. Many designers do not realize that although a product may be medically compliant, if the external charger isn’t, the device isn’t either. So, it’s just as important to understand the requirements of the application space – especially during the Coronavirus pandemic with the increased need for ventilators.
The power experts at Mascot can help ensure your product has the right battery solution, and can even create a bespoke system. Why not take advantage of their expertise in designing custom power supplies?