A charge-discharge cycle involves draining or using your battery to where there is for all intensive purposes, no charge left, and then subsequently charging the battery with a power adapter to 100% capacity. This process of charging and discharging (charge cycling) can only be done between 300-500 times. The question that we want to address is why? Why is it that lithium batteries can only be charged less than 500 times? Why does a battery over time degrade and eventually stops working and what if any does the reduction of the battery's active material and subsequent causes of chemical changes effect battery degredation?
In my last article I explained how that the simple task of charging a battery is far from easy. For example I examined how a battery, a device that converts chemical energy into electrical energy, has two internal electrodes – an anode (the negative end) and a cathode (the positive end), and that between the two electrodes runs an electrical current caused primarily from a voltage differential between the anode and cathode. We learned that batteries are made up of plates of reactive chemicals (Li-ion, Li-po, NIMH, NICD) separated by an electrolyte barrier (which can be either be in a liquid, solid, or gel state), and subsequently polarized so all the electrons gather on one side. We looked at how electricity is produced through a chemical change inside the battery system. We also learned that batteries require electricity to produce electricity and that the introduction of electricity involves replenishing the electrons in the lithium chemical and this chemical process is called intercalation, which, is the joining of a molecule between two other molecules. So without question charging a battery is anything but easy.
One other thing we learned that has helped shape this article is that a charge-discharge cycle involves draining or using your battery to where there is for all intensive purposes, no charge left, and then subsequently charging the battery with a power adapter to 100% capacity. This process of charging and discharging (charge cycling) can only be done between 300-500 times. The question that we want to address is why is it that lithium batteries can only be charged less than 500 times?
Battery Degradation and Power Loss
A battery over time degrades and eventually stops working, this is no surprise, but why this occurs is really a fascinating yet technical process. These reasons are complex issues that are way beyond user control and are wholly contained within your battery and within your device! These technical processes are a result of the reduction of the battery’s active material and subsequent causes of chemical changes. The chemical changes that I write of are:
Declining capacity – when the amount of charge a battery can hold gradually decreases due to usage, aging, and with some chemistry, lack of maintenance.
The loss of charge acceptance of the Li‑ion/polymer batteries is due to cell oxidation. Cell oxidation is when the cells of the battery lose their electrons. This is a normal process of the battery discharge process. In fact every time you use your battery a loss of charge acceptance occurs (the charge loss allows your battery to power your device by delivering electrical current to your device). Capacity loss is permanent. Li‑ion/polymer batteries cannot be restored with cycling or any other external means. The capacity loss is permanent because the metals used in the cells run for a specific time only and are being consumed during their service life.
Internal resistance, known as impedance, determines the performance and runtime of a battery. It is a measure of opposition to a sinusoidal electric current. A high internal resistance curtails the flow of energy from the battery to a device. The aging of the battery cells contributes, primarily, to the increase in resistance, not usage. The internal resistance of the Li‑ion batteries cannot be improved with cycling (recharging). Cell oxidation, which causes high resistance, is non-reversible and is the ultimate cause of battery failure (energy may still be present in the battery, but it can no longer be delivered due to poor conductivity).
All batteries have an inherent elevated self-discharge. The self-discharge on nickel-based batteries is 10 to 15 percent of its capacity in the first 24 hours after charge, followed by 10 to 15 percent every month thereafter. Li‑ion battery's self-discharges about five percent in the first 24 hours and one to two percent thereafter in the following months of use. At higher temperatures, the self-discharge on all battery chemistry increases. The self-discharge of a battery increases with age and usage. Once a battery exhibits high self-discharge, little can be done to reverse the effect.
Premature Voltage Cut-Off – some devices like PDAs do not fully utilize the low-end voltage spectrum of a battery. The pda device itself, for example cuts off before the designated end-of-discharge voltage is reached and battery power remains unused. For example, a pda that is powered with a single-cell Li‑ion battery and is designed to cut-off at 3.7V may actually cut-off at 3.3V. Obviously the full potential of the battery and the device is lost (not utilized).
Now that we have looked at how the chemical changes in a battery effect battery degradation and power loss and contribute to the eventual total loss of the battery I will, in my next article, discuss why battery degradation occurs in the first place.
Until next time – Dan Hagopian www.batteryship.com
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