NiCd/NiMH Battery Charger

Posted on Feb 8, 2013

Here we use the PIC16711. Rechargeable battery capacity is rated in mAH (milliampere-hours). The total capacity of a battery is defined as `C`, that is it can supply C mA for 1 hour, or 2C for 30 minutes etc. Charge rates can vary from trickle charges to keep the battery 'topped up' of 3.3% of C to 5% of C, a slow current charge of 10% of C to 20% of C or a fast charge of 50% of C to 100% of C. Slow charges are not meant to be continually applied, and since NiCd/NiMH batteries are about 66% efficient, they normally last about 8-15 hours. Fast charges such as 100% of C should be terminated after about 1.5 hours, providing the battery is flat to begin with. Once a battery is fully charged, the battery produces gas creating a high internal pressure, and a sudden rise in temperature.

NiCd/NiMH Battery Charger
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The charge should be switched to a trickle charge at this point or the battery will begin to vent and release its electrolyte. My old battery was rated at C=1300mAH and my old charger was rated 400mA (30% of C) so the charger should have been switched off after about 4 hours, provided that they were almost flat to begin with. However there is no way of knowing if C was actually 1300maH or if it had decreased a bit, and once the a battery starts to deteriorate, I suspect this becomes a vicious cycle and the battery deteriorates rapidly due to more and more overcharging. The manufacturer suggests these cells should be good for 500 to 1000 cycles if properly treated! The Memory Effect Myth Possibly the biggest myth that exists partcularly for NiCd cells is the "memory effect". Almost every one quotes it as the reason that cells have to be completely flattened - otherwise they develop some sort of memory, and can only hold a partial charge from there on. Like all good stories, this one has a grain of truth in it! The myth originated from the early days of satellites when they were using solar cells to charge batteries and because of the orbiting of the craft around the earth, the batteries were subjected to precise charge/discharge cycles many hundreds of times. The effect disappears when the battery cycle is suddenly varied, and it is extremely difficult to reproduce this effect even in a laboratory. So the "memory...

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