There’s a good chance that if you build something which includes the ability to top up a lithium-ion battery, it’s going to involve the incredibly common TP4056 charger IC. Now, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. It’s a decent enough chip, and there are countless pre-made modules out there that make it extremely easy to implement. But if the chip shortage has taught us anything, it’s that alternatives are always good.
So we’d suggest bookmarking this opensource hardware Li-Ion battery charger design from [Shahar Sery]. The circuit uses the BQ24060 from Texas Instruments, which other than the support for LiFePO4 batteries, doesn’t seem to offer anything too new or exciting compared to the standard TP4056. But that’s not the point — this design is simply offered as a potential alternative to the TP4056, not necessarily an upgrade.
[Shahar] has implemented the design as a 33 mm X 10 mm two-layer PCB, with everything but the input and output connectors mounted to the topside. That would make this board ideal for attaching to your latest project with a dab of hot glue or double-sided tape, as there are no components on the bottom to get pulled off when you inevitably have to do some rework.
The board takes 5 VDC as the input, and charges a single 3.7 V cell (such as an 18650) at up to 1 Amp. Or at least, it can if you add a heatsink or fan — otherwise, the notes seem to indicate that ~0.7 A is about as high as you can go before tripping the thermal protection mode.
Like the boilerplate TP4056 we covered recently, this might seem like little more than a physical manifestation of the typical application circuit from the chip’s datasheet. But we still think there’s value in showing how the information from the datasheet translates into the real-world, especially when it’s released under an open license like this.
When it comes to portable power, lithium-ion batteries are where it’s at. Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of work being done to better understand how to maximize battery life and usable capacity.
While engaged in such work, [Dr. Michael Metzger] and his colleagues at Dalhousie University opened up a number of lithium-ion cells that had been subjected to a variety of temperatures and found something surprising: the electrolytic solution within was a bright red when it was expected to be clear.
It turns out that PET — commonly used as an inert polymer in cell assembly — releases a molecule that leads to self-discharge of the cells when it breaks down, and this molecule was responsible for the color change. The molecule is called a redox shuttle, because it travels back and forth between the cathode and the anode. This is how an electrochemical cell works, but the problem is this happens all the time, even when the battery isn’t connected to anything, causing self-discharge.
When it comes to cordless power tools, color is an important brand selection criterion. There’s Milwaukee red, for the rich people, the black and yellow of DeWalt, and Makita has a sort of teal thing going on. But when you see that painful shade of fluorescent green, you know you’ve got one of the wide range of bargain tools and accessories that only Ryobi can offer.
Like many of us, Redditor [Grunthos503] had a few junked Ryobi tools lying about, and managed to cobble together this battery-powered inverter for light-duty applications. The build started with a broken Ryobi charger, whose main feature was a fairly large case once relieved of its defunct guts, plus an existing socket for 18-volt battery packs. Added to that was a small Ryobi inverter, which normally plugs into the Ryobi battery pack and converts the 18 VDC to 120 VAC. Sadly, though, the inverter fan is loud, and the battery socket is sketchy. But with a little case modding and a liberal amount of hot glue, the inverter found a new home inside the charger case, with a new, quieter fan and even an XT60 connector for non-brand batteries.
It’s a simple hack, but one that [Grunthos503] may really need someday, as it’s intended to run a CPAP machine in case of a power outage — hence the need for a fan that’s quiet enough to sleep with. And it’s a pretty good hack — we honestly had to look twice to see what was done here. Maybe it was just the green plastic dazzling us. Although maybe we’re too hard on Ryobi — after all, they are pretty hackable.
Thanks to [Risu no Kairu] for the tip on this one.
No matter the type of vehicle we drive, it has a battery. Those batteries wear out over time. Even high end EV’s have batteries with a finite life. But when your EV uses Lead Acid batteries, that life is measured on a much shorter scale. This is especially true when the EV is driven by a driver that takes up scarcely more space in their EV than a stuffed tiger toy! Thankfully, the little girl in question has a mechanic:
Facing challenges similar to that of actual road worthy passenger vehicles, [Brian] teamed up with [bitluni] to solve them. The 12 V SLA battery was being replaced with a 20 V Li-Ion pack from a power tool. A 3d printed adapter was enlisted to break out the power pins on the pack. The excessive voltage was handled with a DC-to-DC converter that, after a bit of tweaking, was putting out a solid 12 V.
What we love about the hack is that it’s one anybody can do, and it gives an inkling of what type of engineering goes into even larger projects. And be sure to watch the video to the end for the adorable and giggly results!
A proper gun safe should be difficult to open, but critically, allow instant access by the authorized party.[Dr. Gerg] got a SnapSafe and discovered that, while it was quite easy to use, it would also lock the owner out easily whenever the batteries would run out. Meant to be used with four AAA batteries and no way to recharge them externally, this could leave you royally screwed in the exact kind of situation where you need the gun safe to open. This, of course, meant that the AAA batteries had to go.
Having torn a few laptop batteries apart previously, [Dr. Gerg] had a small collection of Li-ion cells on hand – cylindrical and pouch cells alike. Swapping the AAA battery holder for one of these was no problem voltage-wise, and testing showed it working without a hitch! However, replacing one non-chargeable battery with another one wasn’t a viable way forward, so he also added charging using an Adafruit LiPo charger board. One 3D printed OpenSCAD-designed bracket later, he fit the board inside the safe’s frame – and then pulled out a USB cable for charging, turning the battery into a backup option and essentially creating an UPS for this safe. Nowadays, the safe sits constantly plugged into a wall socket, and [Dr. Gerg] estimates it should last for a few weeks even in case of USB power loss.
Lithium (from Greek lithos or stone) is a silvery-white alkali metal that is the lightest solid element. Just one atomic step up from Helium, this magic metal seems to be in everything these days. In addition to forming the backbone of many kinds of batteries, it also is used in lubricants, mood-stabilizing drugs, and serves as an important additive in iron, steel, and aluminum production. Increasingly, the world is looking to store more and more power as phones, solar grids, and electric cars continue to rise in popularity, each equipped with lithium-based batteries. This translates to an ever-growing need for more lithium. So far production has struggled to keep pace with demand. This leads to the question, do we have enough lithium for everyone?
It takes around 138 lbs (63 kg) of 99.5% pure lithium to make a 70 kWh Tesla Model S battery pack. In 2016, OICA estimated that the world had 1.3 billion cars in use. If we replace every car with an electric version, we would need 179 billion pounds or 89.5 million tons (81 million tonnes) of lithium. That’s just the cars. That doesn’t include smartphones, laptops, home power systems, massive grid storage projects, and thousands of other products that use lithium batteries.
In 2019 the US Geological Survey estimated the world reserves of identified lithium was 17 million tonnes. Including the unidentified, the estimated total worldwide lithium was 62 million tonnes. While neither of these estimates is at that 89 million ton mark, why is there such a large gap between the identified and estimated total? And given the general rule of thumb that the lighter a nucleus is, the more abundant the element is, shouldn’t there be more lithium reserves? After all, the US Geological Survey estimates there are around 2.1 billion tonnes of identified copper and an additional 3.5 billion tonnes that have yet to be discovered. Why is there a factor of 100x separating these two elements?
Lithium ion batteries have been a revolutionary technology. Their high energy and power density has made the electric car a practical reality, enabled grid storage for renewable energy, and put powerful computers in the palm of the hand. However, if there’s one thing humanity is known for, it’s always wanting more.
Potential contenders for the title of ultimate battery technology are out there, but it will take a major shift to dethrone lithium-ion from the top of the tree.