Better battery management for the environment

by First Focus 11/04/2023

Electronics, Home and Garden, Sponsored Content, Technology

This is a sponsored article from member First Focus.

As technology advances, more and more IT devices are being produced and used, and with that comes a higher demand for batteries. While these batteries are necessary for the devices’ functioning, they can also pose a threat to the environment. Mining and refining the raw materials used to produce batteries has a measurable environmental impact. Likewise, if batteries are not correctly disposed of through a certified e-waste expert, they can harm the environment, leaching toxic chemicals into groundwater and the surrounding environment. These factors mean that proper battery management is vital to reducing the ecological impact of your IT devices.

What types of batteries are involved in IT?

Different types of batteries are used in IT devices, the most common being alkaline and lithium-ion batteries. 

Alkaline batteries are popular for their small size and extended storage life, making them well-suited for serving as low-maintenance backup power sources. They rely on various chemical reactions to produce energy, including zinc and manganese dioxide, nickel and cadmium, and nickel and hydrogen. In laptops and desktops, coin-sized alkaline batteries are commonly used to keep motherboards and other essential components running accurately when the device is not powered on. Though generally non-rechargeable, these batteries perform vital background functions that enable your IT devices to operate correctly.

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are popularly used in portable devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops due to their lightweight construction and high energy density. This unique combination allows them to store a relatively significant amount of electrical energy in a compact space.

As Li-ion batteries are commonly part of end-user devices, we’ll focus on how to look after them to improve their service life.

How Li-ion batteries work

A lithium-ion battery has two layers – one made of lithium cobalt oxide and the other made of graphite – and is controlled by a simple circuit that monitors and reports the battery’s charge level. The battery releases energy when lithium ions move from the graphite layer to the lithium cobalt oxide layer, and charging moves those ions back from the lithium cobalt oxide layer to the graphite layer.

Moving too many ions from one point to another physically degrades the layered structure of the battery, reducing its potential charge and causing batteries to overheat.

How long will my Li-ion batteries last?

While different makes and models vary, it’s generally recognised that lithium batteries offer lifespans of between 300 to 500 complete charging cycles. After this range, the battery performance begins to noticeably degrade.

Note that this is for complete charging cycles only – from full to empty and back again. Suppose only 50% of the battery’s capacity is used every time before charging. In that case, this lifespan can be extended to 600-1000 charge cycles. And if you only used 12.5% of the battery’s charge, this can be extended to 2400-4000 charge cycles.

For this reason, your Li-ion batteries will benefit more from shallow discharge and charging cycles, as they can provide short bursts of energy on demand.

How to care for your Li-ion batteries

To care for your device’s batteries, it is essential to charge them using the correct power source and at the right rate. Most lithium-ion batteries have a recommended charging rate – charging them at this rate is crucial to ensure optimal performance.

Stop charging Li-ion batteries to 100%

Instead, charge the battery between 75-90% before use.

Contrary to popular belief, fully charging lithium-ion batteries can reduce their overall performance. Charging them repeatedly to 100% capacity can degrade the battery’s layered structure, causing it to heat up when charging or in use, and may lower its charging capacity.

Avoid draining Li-ion batteries to 0% 

Instead, use the battery to between 10-25% before recharge.

Draining Li-ion batteries down to 0% before charging them can impact their long-term performance by unbalancing the structure that holds the lithium ions. It’s best to allow your Li-ion batteries to discharge over time and recharge them at cool temperatures using a slow charger. This charging pattern helps batteries deliver longer service life by increasing the number of charging cycles they can before they start to overheat.

When to replace your Li-ion batteries

No matter how well you care for them, the lithium-ion batteries in your devices do have a limited lifespan and will eventually need to be replaced. The exact timing of when you should replace them will depend on several factors, such as the age of the device, the frequency and duration of use, and your charging habits.

Generally, it is a good idea to consider replacing the battery if it no longer holds a charge for the length of time needed, if the device shuts down unexpectedly, or if the battery becomes swollen or damaged.

Additionally, if the device is over a few years old, it may be worth considering replacing the battery as part of routine maintenance to ensure optimal performance.

Ultimately, if a user is experiencing significant battery issues impacting their device’s functionality, it may be time to replace the battery.

What impact will good battery management have on the environment?

Battery management is vital not only for the performance of your IT devices but also for the environment. Improper battery disposal can contaminate soil and water sources with toxic chemicals. While recycling batteries is a sustainable solution that can help reduce the ecological impact of IT devices, your best bet is to look after them to extend their useful life.

In conclusion, battery management is essential to ensure the proper functioning of your IT devices while reducing their environmental impact. And remember – proper care and disposal of batteries can keep the environment safe while allowing you to use your IT devices.

Photo by Robin Glauser on Unsplash

This is an article from a Member. The views and opinions we express here don’t necessarily reflect our organisation.

by First Focus

This a sponsored post published on behalf of First Focus.