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Intelligent chargers and switch mode chargers making the most out of your battery

Intelligent Chargers and Switch Mode Chargers: Making the Most Out of Your Battery

We have all heard the stories and seen the reports on the news (or watched the video on YouTube), someone leaves a battery in the charger for too long, and it overheats and then bursts into flames. Exploding batteries may be a rare occurrence, but not so rare that the manufacturer’s advice should be ignored about how to charge your own battery type and how long you should leave it in the charger. Sometimes the simplest activity of charging a battery can be complicated by knowing exactly when to unplug the appliance from the charger. A better alternative for those who tend to forget such things is a smart charger that knows when to stop charging for both the safety and durability of the battery.

All battery chargers use some generated energy to transfer to the battery for storage. Once the battery has the maximum energy that it can hold, the energy being transferred will be turned into heat and released instead. The higher the heat, the more dangerous and damaging it can be. Overheating a battery can lead to its early failure and complete destruction.

Intelligent charging systems “integrate the control systems within the charger with the electronics within the battery to allow for finer control over the charging process” (Electropedia). To put it very simply: an intelligent charging system works with the battery itself to decide when optimal charging capacity has been reached and to shut the system down before damaging heat can be built up and harm the battery.

A switch mode charger “uses pulse width modulation to control the voltage. Low power dissipation over wide variations in input and battery voltage more efficient than linear regulators, but more complex” (Electropedia dot org).

In most cases, the type of charger that is recommended or suggested will depend on the battery type, its function, and how expensive it is to buy. Obviously a top end, long life rechargeable battery should have the best type of charging system to extend its life for as long as possible. On the other hand, if a lower end battery is purchased because of the cost, it may be possible to wring more life out of it with a better charger, as long as it is suitable for the battery type.

Reference: Electropedia/ Battery and Energy Technologies/ Chargers and Charging. No author listed, no date. Retrieved from http://www.mpoweruk.com/chargers.htm on August 16, 2009

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