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Extending the Life of Your Laptop Battery
Author: Chris Herzog
Manufacturer: N/A
Source: Tech Tips
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Extending the Life of Your Laptop Battery
April 30, 2007

The year 2006 marked a fundamental shift in PC hardware sales as laptop computers (also called "notebooks") outsold desktop PCs for the very first time. As society becomes more mobile, laptops become ever-more powerful, portable, and affordable, and as wireless networks become ubiquitous, this trend will continue.

Obviously, the primary advantage of laptops is mobility. Naturally, however, laptops need power to run on. Even though electrical outlets are plentiful and can be found nearly everywhere, there are times when we have to resort to using the laptop's battery - airplane trips, meetings, etc. I have also seen sudden power failures when I could have lost all my work had the laptop not had a charged battery. Despite the ongoing evolution of battery technology, there are limits to their usage, and that leads to a discussion of ways to preserve and improve battery functionality. We can start by discussing what a battery is, how it works, and the different types of batteries in use today.

What is a Battery, Anyway?:

In simple terms, a battery is chemical energy stored in a container. The chemical energy is then converted to electrical form. A battery has two terminals, negative and positive, that must be connected for the current to flow. This connection is usually provided by a liquid or solid electrolyte that is a conductor; it has the ability to transfer current. Cathode and anode are two electrodes, an electrical conductor that makes contact with the metallic part of a circuit, present in a battery. Current flows from the cathode to anode inside the cell or device.

Different Types of Batteries:

In contemporary portable electronic devices, especially given environmental concerns, batteries must not only store energy in a compact form, they must be rechargeable.

Batteries are usually named based on the metal used to make either the electrodes or the electrolyte. A lithium-ion battery (LIon) has a lithium anode, a zinc-carbon battery has a zinc anode, and a nickel-metal hydride battery (NiMH) or a nickel-cadmium battery (NiCD) has a hydrogen-absorbing alloy for the anode.

Early rechargeable batteries were composed of Nickel-Cadmium (or "NiCad"). NiCads were great because they were rechargeable, but early NiCads held comparatively small charges as well as suffering from "Memory Effect" - if the battery was only partially drained and then recharged, it lost its ability to be fully recharged.

Most portable devices these days use Lithium-Ion batteries. Lithium is the lightest metal and the one with the highest stored ("potential") electrochemical energy. These qualities, along with the fact they do not contain poisonous metals (such as cadmium) make lithium-based batteries the most widely used to power portable devices such as laptops.

Now that we understand the basic functionality of a battery, let's discuss ways to preserve and prolong battery life, specifically laptop computer batteries.

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