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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Conditioning batteries

We spend days and months to figure out the best gadget that meets the requirement and fits the budget constraints. And once done we are happy to have one and get carried away. There is one more important thing to note for those researchers: Battery conditioning. Batteries have become so important that when you purchase a mobile gadget we look for the best back up but most of the times we fail to condition it accordingly to prolong battery life as well as backup.

So in this article I will throw some light on some terminologies and efforts required to increase your battery life. Since most of the gadgets now rely on Lithium-Ion batteries I will restrict my discussions to the aforementioned though a little bit comparisons here and there with Nickel batteries.

Battery ratings:

The storage capacity (charge) or the time that a battery lasts is mentioned in terms of mAh. mAh is an abbreviation for milli-ampere hours, which are units of electrical charge. Larger values, for batteries of the same battery voltage, indicate that the battery has a larger capacity and will power your phone for a longer period of time before charging. The mAh ratings range from 700 mAh to upto 1800 mAh for mobile phones.

Do not get carried away by the mAh ratings. The ratings and the software running on the phone are interdependent. If the software consumes more battery then the promised ratings cannot be accomplished. Now all my discussions will be pointing to mobile phones, however the charging method remains the same for all the Lithium-Ion based gadgets.

Threshold levels:

Lithium-Ion batteries have two levels i.e. say for example if the battery can store 100% charges only 90% of it is available for charging. So when you over charge a Lithium-Ion battery, the protective internal circuits in the battery simply stops it from charging. In a similar manner when your battery is having only 10% of charge left the software in the mobile simply instructs you to plug in for charging. The left over 10% can be utilized by the software in the mobile to run the clock (time) something similar to CMOS batteries, which helps you run the clock in PCs. So this is an organized and efficient way of battery usage as compared to the Nickel based batteries.

First time charge:

Lithium-ion is a very clean system and does not need priming as nickel-based batteries do. Priming is a procedure in which your battery is trained to or initialized to hold charges. If careful priming is not done to the Nickel based batteries then battery back up will be lower than what its ratings state. Here in Lithium-Ion batteries the 1st charge is no different to the 5th or the 50th charge, which is evident from the thresholds level section. Most of the Lithium-Ion batteries take upto 3 – 4 hrs for a full charge from zero. So there is no point in charging the Lithium-Ion batteries for 8 hrs and more for a first time charge. Always stick to the manual of the product and they clearly mention the duration your battery requires to get fully charged.

Subsequent charging:

In order to prolong your battery life, the Lithium-Ion battery should always be operated with 70% of charge. The reason is, when the batteries are continuously charged to their 100%, the probability of cells getting damaged is high as a result of which the lifetime of the battery gets reduced. So it is always advised to maintain charge in the 70% of charge limit. However, frequent charges in this pattern could lead to malfunction of the gauge that gives you the battery level indication. To avoid this you can do a brief topping charge every 20 days where you can charge from 0 to 100% battery life.


If you are not going to use your battery, then the first thing you need to do is to remove the battery from the device and store it in a cool place around 20 – 27 degree Celsius. The battery should neither be with full charge nor without charge. It has to be around 40% to 50% and should be charged at least once in 40 days to make sure that the battery cells don’t die.

Software control on batteries:

Most of the smart phones instruct you to charge when the 10 % limit is reached such as the symbians, windows, Linux, the androids etc. However there are lots of feature phones that run on their proprietary softwares of the manufacturers of which quite a few fail to convey this message and continue to use the remaining charge until it is drained. Continuous draining of charges will also cause the cells to damage. Similarly over charging can also damage the cells in the battery though we have the protective internal circuitry. As a rule of thumb do not drain nor overcharge.


As we saw Lithium-ion is a very clean system and does not need priming as nickel-based batteries do. The 1st charge is no different to the 5th or the 50th charge. So the instructions from the shopkeeper to charge the battery for 8 hours or more for the first time may be leftover from the nickel battery days. So here are the key things that you need to follow to get better battery backup and battery life:

  • Do not overcharge.
  • Do not drain the battery.
  • Always try to maintain the battery charge level in the 70% range.
  • For every 20 days do a topping charge by charging your battery from zero to full to avoid battery gauge mal function due to previous step.
  • Always use the chargers from the respective manufactures and if not, the battery cell can be easily damaged if charged with 3rd party chargers.
  • If the battery is not used, disconnect from the device and store it in a cool place with 40 –50% charge in it. Charge that battery once in 40 days.

I hope this would have given you a good idea on how to maintain your battery. If you are keen to know from the technical aspects of Lithium-Ion batteries you can check here.

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