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Power play

There are different types of batteries for different gadgets. Here is how to extract the most out of both disposable and rechargeable cells.

Harpreet Singh | November 19, 2010 | Updated 11:37 IST

Can you imagine life without a battery? Life today revolves around this marvellous device that stores energy so conveniently. Because it is portable, we see it everywhere around us. Just think of a world without batteries- no mobile phones, no laptops, 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.

You see one battery and you have definitely not seen them all. There are varied types of cells since different devices need different types of power sources.

Batteries are classified into two broad categories: disposable and rechargeable. Disposable batteries, as the name suggests, are intended to be used once and discarded, whereas rechargeable batteries are designed to be charged and discharged repeatedly. G&Gtakes a look at some of the most common type of batteries available-and also tell you how you can squeeze the maximum juice out of these marvels of modern life.

1) CHARGING: Do not leave the battery in the charger for too long. Also avoid getting the battery too hot during charging. Do run a NiCd battery fully down once a month. NiMH and Li-ion batteries last longer with partial rather than full discharges.

2) DON'T MIX BATTERIES: Never ever mix batteries just because they appear 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, all NiMH or all NiCds.

3) SQUEEZE THE MAX FROM YOUR BATTERIES: When a device that takes two or more batteries stops working, it's likely that only one of the batteries is fully exhausted.The others probably have some juice left in them. Use the batteries which have some power left in low power consuming products like clocks and remote controls.

4) 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

5) DISCHARGING: A full cycle does not harm an NiCd battery but avoid too many full cycles for NiMH and Li-ion batteries and keep a 80 per cent depth-of-discharge as a indicator.


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 zinc-chloride batteries, which claim to have a slightly longer life. The huge disadvantage of these cheap batteries is that they are likely to leak.

Alkaline batteries are advertised as "long-life" disposable batteries, but a big plus point 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, wall clocks and some toys.

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 Li-ion cells are invariably product- and model-specific.

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.



Many electronic devices work on 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 (NiCd) and nickel metal hydride (NiMH) 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 store that power for years and years. Remember to keep the chargers for alkaline batteries apart, since you cannot use them to charge the NiMH and NiCd cells.


The key to extract maximum juice out of your battery is to use the right type of battery for your device. For that you need to understand the power requirement of your device. For instance, the power required by a digital camera is very different from what a wall clock or remote needs. There's no point using an expensive rechargeable 3000mAh NiMH battery for your remote or clock. Similarly, your camera will not come to life with carbon-zinc batteries.


120-170 mAh: Remote controls, clocks/timepieces

250-700 mAh: Calculators, cordless phones, remote controls, clocks/timepieces

800-1300 mAh: Electric shavers, Walkman, cordless phones, video games

1500-3000 mAh: Digital cameras, flash lights, electric shavers, Walkman, media players

This story is from the November 2010 edition of Gadgets and Gizmos. Subscribe to the magazine for the Print Copy or iPad.

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