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Power cells

We take a look at some of the most common batteries available—and also see if there’s any way in which you can actually get more life out of these cells.

Harpreet Singh | Print Edition: June 12, 2008

Love, they say, makes the world go round. But batteries keep it going. Just imagine a world without batteries. No mobile phones. No laptops. No cars. No torches, no remote controls, no toys, no portable music players, no digital cameras, no gadgets...pretty much the end of the world as we know it. But thankfully there are batteries in this world. And not just one uniform power cell—different devices need different sources of power. We take a look at some of the most common batteries available—and also see if there’s any way in which you can actually get more life out of these cells.

DISPOSABLES

Cheap and short
Carbon-zinc batteries—the cheap, disposable ones that come free with your average ‘made in China’ plastic toys— are ideal for applications where there’s no heavy power drain. They can be used to some effect in remote controls, small flashlights, toys and transistor radios. There are also zincchloride batteries, which claim to have a slightly longer life. The huge disadvantage of these cheap batteries is that they are likely to leak, and acid in your remote control or torch is hardly likely to improve performance.
Price: Rs 4 (per cell)

Lasts long...
The Energiser bunny runs on alkaline batteries. Oh ok, Energiser is a brand of alkaline batteries if you must be particular. As is Duracell. And most other ‘long-life’ batteries. These are also disposable batteries, but the huge advantage is that you can reuse them to an extent. For instance, the power in these cells might no longer be sufficient for your digicam, but there’s still enough juice to run low-drain devices such as remote controls and some toys.
Price: Rs 44 (per cell)

Takes a licking...
If you have a lithium ion battery in your camera or mobile phone, you can be sure it will work no matter where you are.These batteries are hugely popular with manufacturers of portable electronic devices.They can last up to 10 years and recharge within the instrument. But such performance comes at a high price, plus L-ion cells are invariably product and model specific.
Price: Rs 250 onwards

Precious buttons
Button cells, otherwise called silver oxide batteries, have an extremely long life—but come at a prohibitive cost thanks to the price of silver. That’s largely why these batteries are available only as button cells, where the amount of silver used is minuscule. These cells are commonly used in watches, hearing aids and calculators.
Price: Rs 10 onwards

RECHARGEABLES

High power, long life
Many electronic devices work off the power generated by the standard AA or AAA size batteries.The problem is that you end up replacing the batteries with alarming frequency, as there’s a definite memory loss, which means the battery holds less power than you think it does. Instead of spending a fortune—and damaging the environment— on disposable batteries, try rechargeable ones. The most popular are nickel-cadmium and nickelmetal hydride batteries.There are also alkaline rechargeables available, but these are best suited for gadgets such as remote controls or torches that are used infrequently.That’s because these batteries hold relatively less power than the NiCd or NiMH cells, but hold that power for years and years. Remember to keep the chargers for the alkaline batteries apart, since you cannot use it to charge the NiMH and NiCd cells

See graphic: How much power do you need?

TIPS

Don’t mix batteries
Never, ever mix batteries just because they look to be the same size—it’s a sure-fire way to ruin electronics and cause an accident. So, if you need four batteries in your camera and you have two alkalines, one NiCd and one NiMH, don’t bother loading the camera.Always use all alkalines, NiMH or NiCds

Get the most from your batteries
When a device that takes two or more batteries stops working, it’s more than likely that only one of the batteries is fully exhausted.The others probably have some power left in them. Use the batteries which have some power left in low power consuming products like clocks and remote controls

Use the right charger
Newer battery chargers handle both NiMH and NiCd cells.Older chargers handle only NiCds. If you have NiMH batteries, make sure your charger can handle them. Otherwise, you'll ruin your batteries (and maybe start a fire).You can put any brand of battery in a charger, as long as it’s the right type

Capacity depends on power needed
The effective capacity of a battery changes depending on the power drain; an alkaline battery with a capacity of 3000 mAh at low power, will have a capacity of as little as 700 mAh in a gadget that calls for high power (mAh stands for milliamp hour, a technical term for how much power a battery has)

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