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Li-ion Battery Charger – Introduction, Need & Charging Methods

Li-ion Battery Charger – Introduction, Need & Charging Methods

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Lithium-ion batteries are one of the best power sources available in the market. They are in use for a wide variety of applications related to daily household items to aerospace devices. However, the secret to their performance lies in charging them correctly. If Lithium-ion batteries are not charged properly the battery may start to produce faulty operations and sometimes they can also get damaged. 

Charging Lithium-ion batteries the right way is responsible for battery's optimum performance and prolonged operation life. To manage the charging mechanism of Li-ion batteries, there charging is usually accompanied by a battery management system. The battery management system controls the discharge, level of charge, and the rate of charge and discharge. 

Can You Charge a li-ion battery with a Normal Charger  

The answer to ‘Can you charge a Li-ion battery with a normal charger’ is ‘that it depends’. It is not a clear no, however, it depends on the type of battery and its design. Lithium-ion batteries have higher voltage levels as compared to other regular batteries. Also, when depleting, Li-ion battery’s have a very small voltage. 

Another difference between the charging mechanism of a regular battery and a Li-ion battery is that Lithium batteries charge over a constant supply of current until they are full and then the charger cuts off. Unlike regular battery chargers, Lithium battery chargers do not have ‘trickle charge’ or ‘float’ mechanisms. Lithium battery chargers support ‘fast charging’ where they supply current at a faster rate than normal until the battery gets completely charged. 

You can use a regular charger for charging a Lithium battery if you have the option to determine the maximum output voltage of the charger and if the charger does not have an automatic voltage equalization mode. However, when the voltage equalization mode is disabled, it becomes necessary to disconnect the battery from the charger as soon as it gets fully charged to avoid any damage to the battery. 

Most chargers, nowadays, are equipped with this latest technology to allow controlling these features. To charge a Li-ion battery with a normal charger you need the right type of charger and the right type of battery that the charger can support without inflicting any damage. 

Do lithium batteries Need a Household Charger  

Lithium batteries need household chargers to support their performance in different states. 

For example, Some Lithium-ion battery chargers contain a feature called ‘boost’ or ‘wake-up feature’. The purpose of this feature is to bring back a Lithium battery from its over-discharged state back to service. The over-discharging state in Lithium batteries can happen when a battery is stored in a self-discharging state and the battery continues to discharge until it reaches a voltage cut-off level. A regular charger won’t be able to charge a Lithium battery in such a state and the user will discard the battery. A household charger, with a charge management system, provides a ‘boost’ of 2.2 volts or 2.9 volts per cell to bring the battery into the protection region where it starts to charge again. However, a strong precaution must be taken if the cell voltage has fallen below 1.5 volts per cell because the battery safety can be compromised at this point. 

What is the Best Way to Charge a Lithium-ion Battery  

Electronically, the charging process of Lithium-ion batteries is very different from the processes of charging Ni-Cd or NiMH batteries. Both of the batteries follow different electronic mechanisms, therefore, a single electronic circuit can not be used to charge both kinds of batteries. 

Fortunately, the charging mechanism of Lithium-ion batteries is much simpler as compared to the regular NiCd and NiMH batteries. The charging circuit is simple, it consists of voltage and current limitation techniques rather than complex voltage clippings which degrade with the passage of time. 

Lithium-ion batteries can be charged at irregular intervals, unlike the lead acid batteries that require saturation. Therefore, one of the best ways to charge Li-ion batteries can be by using renewable energy sources such as a solar-charged battery or through a wind turbine. Trickle charge and equalizing charging are also not required for Lithium-ion batteries as they are required with other regular batteries. 

The best way for charging a Lithium-ion battery can be reflected through the set of guidelines given below: 

1.During the saturation stage, the best practice is to turn off the device that contains the batteries or to disconnect the load to allow the current to drop. A power consumption leakage in the load (parasitic load) can induce malfunctioning in the charger. 

2.Always charge the battery at temperate temperatures. Charging at higher environmental temperatures or charging via a faulty charger can increase the internal temperature of the battery which is bad for battery health. Many chargers include mechanisms to monitor battery temperature so that in case of overheating the charging can be interrupted. 

3.To ensure a prolonged battery performance and life, the best practice is to never fully charge or discharge the Li-ion battery. Charging up to 80-90% of the battery capacity and discharging up to 20% of the battery capacity is a safe limit. Many chargers do not fully top up the battery charges and the 100% mark on the battery gauge may just be a safety alarm for the battery. 

4.Try not to use the device while its battery is on charge as using the device while charging may cause the battery to heat up. Allow the battery to rest. 

5.If the Lithium-ion battery charger gets warm during the charging process or if the battery starts to get warm during the charging process it is highly advisable to replace them either. 

Some times due to excessive self-discharging, the battery level may fall below the operatable threshold. This may cause the battery to become obsolete or sometimes a charger won’t be able to wake the battery up. In such cases, the best way is to charge a Lithium battery about 40-50% of its capacity before storing it up for later use.

 

 

 

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