Battery Capacity Tester Lifts The Veil On Manufacturer Capacity Claims


[Nick] was tasked with building a battery capacity tester by one of his teachers in order to test some aftermarket batteries that were purchased for their Vex robotics lab. The batteries were cheaper than the official version, but boasted more than twice the capacity. Fairly skeptical of the rating, he got to work designing his circuit.

He originally planned on discharging the battery through a resistor and measuring the voltage with a PIC microcontroller. After prototyping the circuit, he found that the PIC did not have enough storage space for the data he was collecting, and that there were issues with fluctuating current as the voltage decreased.

Undeterred, he built a new tester using a Teensy microcontroller and a different discharging circuit using a LM317T. This second version not only included an LCD screen to track the discharging process in real-time, but it also dumps all of the data and calculations to a spreadsheet on the computer connected to the Teensy.

The capacity tester works pretty well, according to [Nick]. He says that most batteries overestimate their capacity, and that his meter is getting readings within an acceptable variance when testing known good batteries. What about those knock-off batteries from China?  He discovered that they can hold about half the charge that they claim – it’s a good thing he decided to test them out!

While he provides the software he used for the tester, there are no schematics to be found. Check out some of the other battery capacity testers we have featured in the past for tips on building one yourself.

Easy High Voltage Power Supply


[rocketman221] wrote up one of the simplest ways to build a high voltage power supply. This one in particular was used on his coilgun. Instead of building a custom circuit, he’s using flash charging boards from disposable cameras. Six 450V 470uF caps are wired in parallel to make up the bank. Two of the charger boards are wired to one switch to initiate the charging process. Four additional boards are wired two a second switch for the second charging stage. The part cost on this is incredibly cheap and it only requires a 3.3V input to reach 450V. The writeup has plenty of warnings about the dangers of high voltage; you need to clean off all flux residue to prevent arcing across the circuit boards. Embedded below is a video of the bank being discharged through several objects. Continue reading “Easy High Voltage Power Supply”