How to Make the Most of AA Batteries
AA batteries are everywhere you look, from cameras to TV remotes. You can find AA rechargeable batteries, and you can find disposable batteries in the same format. What you havent been easily able to find are lithium-based AA batteries.
What About Different Chemistries?
There are several different chemistries in AA cells; some of which allow the battery to recharge while others aim at single-use applications:
- Alkaline: The most common technology for disposable AA batteries is based around alkaline chemistry. These primary cells are suitable for low-drain applications that require long storage lives such as emergency flashlights and television remote controls. Most alkaline AAs offer a nominal voltage of 1.5 volts that degrades during use.
- Nickel: Nickel chemistry is the most common choice for rechargeable AAs. Originally popularized as NiCad because the first versions used cadmium, a toxic heavy metal; this chemistry has given way to the environmentally friendly NiMH chemistry which relies on metal hydrides instead of cadmium. They produce a nominal 1.2 volts but maintain this output through the majority of the discharge cycle.
- Lithium-Ion: Li-ion offers a number of advantages over other forms of storage battery. They maintain a long life and offer excellent capacity. The primary reason why they are not commonly available in the AA format is voltage. While the 1.2 V NiMH cell falls in the normal operating range of the original alkalines, Li-ions 3.7-volt output is well outside the nominal range of most AA battery devices.
How Do Lithium-Ion AA Batteries Work?
In an attempt to bring the benefits of Li-ion technology to portable devices that have traditionally relied on AAs, companies like KENTLI began releasing Li-ion alternatives to standard NiMH rechargeable batteries. These designs feature a number of unique qualities to make a 3.7-volt battery behave like a 1.5-volt one:
- Charging: In order to charge the 3.7-volt internals, this unit has a second electrode on the top that feeds the internal battery at a high enough voltage level to actually charge it. One result of this design is that it requires a unique charger from KENTLI as a standard one cannot supply the necessary current.
- Internals: These AAs use an internal voltage regulator to drop the output from 3.7 volts to 1.5 volts to power standard electronics without damage. Two results of this are that the capacity measures in mWh rather than mAh, and there is a loss due to the conversion.
Keeping Everything Going
The key to life in the electronic era is having enough chargers to ensure that all your devices can charge whenever you need it. Once you have that problem solved, everything else falls by the wayside.
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