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Power Technology

Company Extends Alkaline Battery Life With Voltage Booster 243

New submitter ttsai writes: Batteroo is a Silicon Valley company preparing to release its Batteriser product in September. The Batteriser is a small sleeve that fits around alkaline batteries to boost the voltage to 1.5V. This means that batteries that would otherwise be thrown into the trash when the voltage dips to 1.3V or 1.4V could be used until the unboosted voltage reaches 0.6V, extending the useful life of a battery 8x, according to the company. This product has the potential to reduce the number of batteries in landfills as well as increasing the time between replacing batteries. The expected price of the sleeve is $10 for a pack of 4 sleeves.
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Company Extends Alkaline Battery Life With Voltage Booster

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  • Too good to be true (Score:5, Informative)

    by brausch ( 51013 ) on Wednesday June 03, 2015 @09:03PM (#49836409)

    The article presents some info that just isn't quite right. The device will probably be useful but not nearly as good as they claim. Instead of 8 or more to one times the typical battery lifetime, it will be more like two times. Google "joule thief" and read the articles and comments carefully. This device works the same way; just in a compact package.

    • by brausch ( 51013 )

      There are lots of good comments posted after the original article.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Wednesday June 03, 2015 @09:27PM (#49836525)

      My intuition as well. In fact, when looking at discharge curves for alkaline batteries and assume than any reasonable gadget will use them down to something like 1.15V (otherwise it does not work with NiMH accumulators which only have 1.22V when fully charged), I expect that you will get less than an 80% boost. That is a bit different from the claimed 500% to 800% and explains why the battery industry does not care much. (Discharge curve e.g. here: http://www.stefanv.com/electro... [stefanv.com])

      Of course a device with brain-dead power engineering that claims that batteries are dead at 1.4V would get something like an 1000% boost, but such a device is broken by design and also does not work with accumulators in the first place. Also note that if said device is an LED flashlight with step-up regulator (single-cell ones all are), it already does what this thing is claiming to do.

      The break-in story adds to my impression that this is nowhere near as good as claimed.

      • When my beard trimmers, yes that's a thing, from 1998, go dead (3 AA), or my elliptical from 2004 (4 D), or any number of remote controls for my DVD, Xbox, roku, tv, or receiver, die, and I have to rotate batteries to charge them, I would prefer to eke a few more minutes with this.

        Alternatively, a charge level indicator so I know going in if I need to rotate and charge.

        Build this into devices, switching when the battery dies, would be cool, but additional drain like a charge indicator.

        As a guy with batterie

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        My intuition as well. In fact, when looking at discharge curves for alkaline batteries and assume than any reasonable gadget will use them down to something like 1.15V (otherwise it does not work with NiMH accumulators which only have 1.22V when fully charged), I expect that you will get less than an 80% boost. That is a bit different from the claimed 500% to 800% and explains why the battery industry does not care much.

        Of course a device with brain-dead power engineering that claims that batteries are dead

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dougmc ( 70836 )

        otherwise it does not work with NiMH accumulators which only have 1.22V when fully charged

        No, NiMH and NiCD cells are at 1.41 volts when fully charged. By the time they hit 1.22 volts, perhaps 60% of the energy that was in the battery is gone.

        I do not know why primary cell voltages are given at their very highest possible voltage and secondary cell voltages are given approximately at the middle of their useful range -- it basically turns the "1.5v vs 1.2v" thing into an apples to orange comparison, when saying "1.5v vs 1.4v" would be far more accurate.

        That said ... how useful this device would

        • by chihowa ( 366380 )

          I do not know why primary cell voltages are given at their very highest possible voltage and secondary cell voltages are given approximately at the middle of their useful range -- it basically turns the "1.5v vs 1.2v" thing into an apples to orange comparison, when saying "1.5v vs 1.4v" would be far more accurate.

          The different chemistries are described this way because of the characteristics of the discharge curves. As you can see here [stefanv.com], the NiMH battery (and NiCd is similar) spends most of its life at 1.2V, while the ZnMnO2 batteries have no such plateau.

          Under any considerable load, both battery types will drop from 1.5V/1.4V very quickly, so measuring 1.2V across a loaded NiMH battery doesn't mean that 60% of the energy is gone. Self-discharge alone will drop most NiMH/NiCd cells to below 1.4V pretty quickly.

    • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Wednesday June 03, 2015 @09:30PM (#49836537)
      But the claim was "batteries that would otherwise be thrown into the trash when the voltage dips to 1.3V or 1.4V."

      One doesn't have to look hard to find [powerstream.com] that an alkaline cell drops to 1.4 V when only about 10% of its energy capacity is used. So I can believe the claim, even though it's exceedingly misleading. I can't think of a device designed for alkaline batteries which would fail to work at even 1.0 V/cell.

      From the article: "Batteroo is a Silicon Valley company preparing to release its Batteriser product in September."

      And don't forget, it's Batterrific!
      • by skids ( 119237 )

        There are actually poorly engineered adgets out there that cut off well before an alkaline is tapped. They are the same ones that have trouble operating off NiMHs.

        (Whereas the ones the SP mentions that drain the hell out of batteries need to be used with care with NiMH as they can decrease rechargeable shelf life by doing that.)

        Ever since LSD NiMHs hit the market I have not bought a single alkaline oter than to put in gifts given to someone who can't handle rechargeables.

    • The voltage curve for most Alkaline batteries hits 1.3 volts after about 20 to 30% of it's usefully extracable energy. then the curve flattens out dropping the next 0.3 volts to 1 volt after about 70 to 80% of the energy after which is drops like a rock.

      So if you could reclaim that 80% energy that might seem like 4x more or a total of 5x energy recovery. But the boost to 1.5v takes the energy out faster so in terms of time rather than energy recovery the lifetime is not increased so much.

      let's make some

  • not new (Score:5, Informative)

    by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Wednesday June 03, 2015 @09:03PM (#49836411) Homepage
    This has been around for years. A device from last year [makezine.com] uses the same joule thief circuit. [wikipedia.org]
    • The article itself says it isn't new. What is new is the miniaturization that allows it to go on batteries and have them still fit into existing devices.
  • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Wednesday June 03, 2015 @09:04PM (#49836419)

    It's going to be limited to low power device, which generally don't cut out when the battery drops to 1.4V. A lot of products are designed to get the most out of a battery, which is around 0.8V per cell.

    High power devices cut out quicker because the internal resistance increases, and when a large amount of current is drawn the voltage drops significantly.

    These little devices don't have much power capability if they're to be so small as to fit in existing products along side the batteries. They're also not going to be 100% efficient, so in a well designed product, they will decrease battery life.

  • by firex726 ( 1188453 ) on Wednesday June 03, 2015 @09:05PM (#49836423)

    It's just joule thief, thing is not all batteries can tolerate being over discharged and may fail catastrophically.

    • by QuasiEvil ( 74356 ) on Wednesday June 03, 2015 @09:47PM (#49836609)

      Carbon-zinc and alkaline (MnO2) batteries will go to complete discharge without any danger. You're thinking of various rechargeable chemistries that either suffer loss of capacity from excess discharge (Pb Acid, NiCd, NiMH, etc.) or have the potential to fail horribly (lithium chemistries).

      Lithium AAs, while they exist, are fairly rare and not the same chemistry as the rechargables. As far as I know, there's no danger in taking them all the way to dead either.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Khyber ( 864651 )

        "Carbon-zinc and alkaline (MnO2) batteries will go to complete discharge without any danger."

        Bullshit. Carbon-Zinc batteries use the Zinc can as the cathode. Guess what that means?

        As you continue to discharge the battery, the case falls apart because it is eating itself. You get a leak.

  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <(markt) (at) (nerdflat.com)> on Wednesday June 03, 2015 @09:12PM (#49836455) Journal
    Since this requires an external sleeve to be mounted on the battery... I expect this will more than likely cause the battery to not fit properly in many types of devices' housing. Some people may try and force the battery to fit, and might end up breaking their devices, often without even necessarily using very much force (since the only force batteries generally require to insert in most consumer devices is against the spring tension of any battery contacts).
  • by ZackSchil ( 560462 ) on Wednesday June 03, 2015 @09:13PM (#49836461)

    There aren't many devices that are both low power and require a steady 1.5V operating voltage. Most will tolerate 0.8-1.2V as their low end. In a high drain device, the number of watts left in the cell when the voltage drops below that low end is minuscule, so this sleeve will only buy you a few more minutes of use. In a low drain device, it can give you a significant amount of time but most low-drain devices that would benefit already have a similar circuit built-in. Logitech's wireless mice and keyboards that use alkalines and last months, for example, have this voltage boosting circuitry already, and tuned to the minimum voltage the mouse requires to reduce conversion loss.

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      "There aren't many devices that are both low power and require a steady 1.5V operating voltage."

      Cameras are quite voltage sensitive. Example, two cameras I own came with 1.2V cells. Two for a total of 2.4V. Recording video in bright lighting conditions is fine. The second you drop past a certain light level, the audio capturing/encoding gets beyond fucked, and everything sounds like a chipmunk, even sped up. This does not happen with 1.5V alkaline batteries inserted.

      • What you're saying is you have a camera with a very poorly designed power system. Case in point a high discharge device being designed to be used with a non-rechargable chemistry. If a camera can't handle 1.2V cells and runs from AAs then the designer should have their ass kicked.

        • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

          Kodak Easyshare C633.

          Great on fresh alkalines, take a dozen flash shots, it's fucked. Or is it?

          Drop the batteries into an LED flashlight like a "Lenser" which are loaded with Cree electronics, and they'll last another three years.

          Source: I have a drawer full of cameras and flashlights are the cornerstone of any discerning hunter's day pack.

          • Oh I believe it. I came across it on an older Olympus model too. That's no excuse for crap design though.

          • by Khyber ( 864651 )

            Shit you even got almost the EXACT models of camera down. Easyshare C643 and C743. My Z981 doesn't have this problem.

            Still waiting for 1.6V Ni-ZN batteries to get their whiskering problem fixed.

  • When a device power circuit already integrate a voltage regulator, this is yet another battery scam.
    If not, it is either a cheap or old piece of electronic.

    This battery extender _is_ yet another battery scam.

    Next expand your car mileage by adding a water sprayer, magic canister?

    This is not news for nerds.

    _This_ is scamvertisement.

    • by Megane ( 129182 )
      If they can make it work, I'd buy some. But I will not indiekickfund it. The magic is not the boost converter, it's making it that small and thin. I don't feel confident enough about that to place a bet on it until it's already worked for other people.
  • by lindseyp ( 988332 ) on Wednesday June 03, 2015 @09:15PM (#49836467)

    "A completely new alkaline battery is rated to generate 1.5 volts, but once its output drops below 1.35 or even 1.4 volts, it effectively becomes useless to many devices. "

    And yet I can't recall any device that didn't work happily with the 1.2v supplied by a rechargeable NiMH.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      And that is exactly the problem with this "invention": And sanely designed device these days assumes batteries may be NiMH. These start at around 1.22V when full and are empty at somewhere around 1.10V. That means this "magic" "invention" will boost battery life by something like 70% or less in such a device. And using NiMH in the first place is a better choice anyways in most applications.

      • The catch is, not all devices (especially devices more than a few years old) ARE "sanely designed". I remember quite well that the original Palm III had fairly demanding battery requirements... it was good for about a month with Duracell or Energizer alkalines, but only lasted 2-3 weeks with store-brand alkaline cells, and only lasted a few DAYS with NiMH cells. Ditto for my piece-of-shit Minolta d'Image DSLR, which was good for about 10 photos on brand new alkaline batteries before shutdown.

        That said, the

        • by wbo ( 1172247 )
          The old PalmOS devices had options to select which battery chemistry were in use. If I remember correctly, support for recharable batteries such as NiMH cells was added somewhere around PalmOS 3 or perhaps 3.3. A reference page [peachpit.com] indicates that Alkaline, NiCad, Rechargeable Alkaline, and NiMH were supported.

          If you didn't select the correct chemistry it could report the batteries as being dead or almost dead when they still had lots of life left.

          I had a Palm IIIx that I used for many years and I ran it
    • by djbckr ( 673156 )

      And yet I can't recall any device that didn't work happily with the 1.2v supplied by a rechargeable NiMH.

      To add to this good statement: Alkaline batteries have high internal resistance, so when they are highly loaded, their voltage drops dramatically (and therefore become useless to the device they are powering). NiMH have low internal resistance and can delivery drastically more amperage before their voltage drops. Many devices completely work with 1.2v just fine, but alkaline batteries drop below that too easily.

    • Yeah, the 1.35 or 1.4 number is total bull$#@!. Almost everything these days will run on the 1.1-1.2 of NiMH, as you point out. Even at that point, the remaining energy in a common alkaline (manganese dioxide) AA cell is nowhere near 80%. Alkaline goes "over the cliff" - the sharp point at the end of the discharge curve where there's no energy left and the voltage plummets - at about 0.8-0.9V. Even at 1.1V, there's only about 10% of the energy capacity left for a typical alkaline.

      Look up "alkaline disch

    • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

      "A completely new alkaline battery is rated to generate 1.5 volts, but once its output drops below 1.35 or even 1.4 volts, it effectively becomes useless to many devices. "

      And yet I can't recall any device that didn't work happily with the 1.2v supplied by a rechargeable NiMH.

      The remote for my old Sony TV refused to work with NiMH's, but since the remote lasted for a couple years of regular use with a pair of Alkalines, this $10 battery booster wouldn't really be worth it.

    • I've had 3 or 4, different brands, that after a year or so would only work with brand new batteries for a few shots and then quit, and forget rechargeables. Now that phone cameras have become good enough, I haven't owned an actual camera for some time, maybe they've improved.
      • by fgouget ( 925644 )
        Did you have a Canon among them? At least their Canon PowerShot A1100 IS from 2009 still works just fine with NiMH batteries.
    • by fnj ( 64210 )

      All the devices I happen to have that use AAs will work just fine down to at least 0.9 v. Some of them work to 0.7 v.

    • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

      older digital cameras.

      source: I have many, and they all suffer the same problem: they don't work on NiMH chemistry. ANY of them.

      • by fgouget ( 925644 )
        Try a Canon PowerShot A1100 IS. Dates back to 2009, still works just fine with NiMH batteries.
        • You can go back even further than that with the PowerShot line. I have one from 2007 that works fine with NiMH.

  • I'm not impressed. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday June 03, 2015 @09:17PM (#49836475) Journal
    Ok, DC-DC converters do have a legitimate place in battery powered systems. You want a blue or white LED in your flashlight without resorting to an expensive cell chemistry or 3ish alkalines in series? Well, DC-DC converter it is. You(for some reason) have an antique filament-bulb flashlight and you don't want it to spend the last chunk of its life putting out relatively useless IR because the filament temperature is too low for visible light? A DC-DC converter will fully flatten the batteries faster(because of its own losses, and because current draw has to increase as voltage droops in order to maintain the same power output); but at least the entire lifespan will be spent putting out usable light.

    However, there's a problem here: Most even vaguely well designed widgets already tolerate some amount of voltage variation. Especially because NiCd and NiMH rechargeables are only good for ~1.2v(maybe 1.3-1.4 hot off the charger, for a few moments), alkalines for ~1.5; but with well known droop as they are exhausted or if discharge current is too high; and lithium primary cells in AAA or AA packages are up around 1.7, with less droop; you simply can't build a consumer widget that is too picky about battery voltage. If you do, you'll be flooded with unhappy and confused customers and probably lots of expensive returns.

    This seems to constrain the useful market for this product to a very narrow, rather weird, niche: Anything that already tolerates voltage droop well will see very limited benefit. Anything with very low power draw will also see very limited benefit, because even badly depleted batteries slump as discharge current increases. Devices with very high power draw might see a benefit; because they will drive the battery to slump most quickly(and, according to the discharge curves for most alkalines, very high currents will cause substantial slump well before the capacity is exhausted); but the DC-DC converter will need even higher discharge current in order to keep power output constant as voltage drops, which will exacerbate the voltage slump, and likely hit the wall where the effective internal resistance of the battery is high enough that it simply won't deliver any more current.

    So what actually gains? Devices that are maldesigned enough to brown out with even modest voltage droop; but also sufficiently low drain that the draw of the converter will remain within the battery's 'best-case' discharge cycle; but not so low drain that the (modest; but nonzero) losses in the DC-DC converter increase the overall drain by a substantial amount.

    Anyone have a device or devices in mind?
  • If this "technology" actually worked and the only innovation here is the miniaturization, it would have been built into the battery compartments of devices already. It sounds almost as legit as magnetic fuel optimizers.

  • Alkaline battery voltage doesn't fall linearly with lifetime, but undergoes a rapid drop near the end of life: http://www.powerstream.com/z/A... [powerstream.com] In this curve, the battery has only 10-20% of its life left at 1.1v, and I've never owned any device that did not work down to at least that voltage and usually less. Whatever device in the example that stops working at 1.35v is very poorly designed and not something you run across often.
  • AA batteries are $1 for a four pack at the dollar store. That's 25 cents per battery. Admittedly, these batteries are low end. If you use one of their coupons, Harbor Freight sells their private label AA batteries for about 25 cents when you buy 24.

    Let's say that I'm using a 4 AA cell device, my old camping lantern. It has one dollar worth of batteries and $10 worth of these devices. The lantern itself isn't even worth $10. Seems like an awful lot to spend to me, because the $10 investment becomes a permane

  • May be of some use (Score:5, Informative)

    by Gim Tom ( 716904 ) on Wednesday June 03, 2015 @09:52PM (#49836629)
    I have a number of wireless devices ( remote thermometers, rain gauges, etc ) that use AA and AAA cells and I have tracked the failure voltage of most of them for several years. I fresh cell will be a bit over 1.5 volts and good design SHOULD permit operation down to about 1 volt per cell. However, virtually all of the devices I have quit working when the cell voltage gets below about 1.34 volts. The devices use between 2 and 4 cells each, and I have to change batteries in most of them between one and two times per year. I AM an engineer and understand that "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch" but most of the devices are low average current drain with intermittent higher current peaks (a sensor that transmits a new reading every couple of minutes). A device like this, with an appropriate capacitor for peak current (which most of the devices already have internally), would cut down the number of batteries I use per year significantly. For the price mentioned in the article I will buy a few sets of these as soon as they hit the market.
    • by Ramze ( 640788 )

      Why? That just doesn't strike me as being very cost effective.

      If the plan is to sell a pack of 4 sleeves for $10 to go with a pack of 4 alkaline batteries ($3 for Rayovac, $6 for Duracell around here), you could instead buy 4 Panasonic eneloop Ni-MH AA batteries for $13. You would, admittedly, have to pay for a charger and charge them beforehand, but you'd save lots of money over the life of the rechargeables. The Panasonic chargers go for between $7 and $14, but I highly recommend a La Crosse Technology

    • by fgouget ( 925644 )

      However, virtually all of the devices I have quit working when the cell voltage gets below about 1.34 volts.

      This is strange. All the devices I have work just fine with NiMH batteries and these are 1.2V. (LED flashlights, basic remote controls, Harmony-with-screen remote control, 2 wireless keyboards, 1 wireless mouse, 3 alarm clocks, SLR camera flash, bathroom and kitchen scales, cd player, 90's walkman, cordless phones)

      • by Gim Tom ( 716904 )
        I know. A well designed circuit for battery power SHOULD work down to about 1.0 volts per cell. These are very old and very cheap sensors that are imports and do not come close to that threshold.

        For the sensors I am using the average current drain is in the microamp range except when transmitting a reading, which takes only a few milliseconds, and are several minutes apart. The transmit current is in the low milliamp range, but so brief that the average current drain is less than one milliamp.

        I d
  • It's a battery for your battery.. Where's all the yo dawg shit?

  • So this device fits around an alkaline battery. I've got a Wensn decibel meter that has a battery compartment big enough for alkaline AAs, but too small for any of my rechargeable AAs. The rechargeables have a slightly bigger diameter (the difference is 0.2-0.3 mm).
    So there's a chance alkaline batteries using this device won't fit.

  • I now use NiMH AA batteries for almost everything, with the low discharge varieties like Eneloop/Panasonic I see no reason to use alkaline batteries which are, in the long term, more expensive and less environmentally friendly. However every so often I find a device which does not like NiMH batteries, presumable because they expect a voltage higher than 1.2V. If so this device could boost the voltage to 1.5V meaning I could use rechargeable batteries for everything.
  • While the claims are obviously exaggerated, I'll use them for some things.

    How about a flashlight where the bulbs don't get slowly dimmer. Its basically adding voltage regulation and boost to simple devices that don't have that.
  • I hope that eventually this will work with 18650's as bright flashlights are battery hogs. Oh, and my mouse needs freshened Eneloop's about once a week and if this can extend the time between changes to twice that I will gladly buy a set.
  • It's messy (sometimes you get leaks) and the recharged versions don't last as long, but you can extend the life this way. I have no idea what the market for this product is, though. For my devices that go through power quickly (I have a four year old, and just about everything he owns requires 3-4 AA batteries) I use NiMH rechargable. For things that only need a new set once a year or so (remote controls) I recharge primary alkalines. I realize that there are people out there who can't be bothered, mone
  • NiMh batteries are usually 1.2 volts. If this were integrated into the battery so it provides a discharge profile similar to Alkaline, rechargeable batteries suddenly become practical for many devices that don't know how to deal with them.

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