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What is Cell Balancing, and How Can it Improve Battery Life?

The rise of smart batteries has been absolutely indispensable to the current explosion of battery technology across nearly every area of our lives. Smart battery systems, also known as battery management systems (BMS) are the specific component that makes smart batteries possible. A BMS is that which monitors the charge left in the battery and its capacity, and today they are incorporated into complex software systems that do everything from display the charge capacity to trigger alerts when it’s time to charge. There is no smart battery without the BMS; and without the smart batteries, everything from laptops to smartphones and myriad other technologies would not exist.

However, a BMS doesn’t just monitor the state of the battery and report information to the user. BMS also regulate a device’s power use. This is something which requires fairly complex software, and so has been an element of smart battery technology that has developed over the course of that technology’s existence. Originally, a BMS could simply monitor but today, a BMS system can automatically trigger power saving modes and can regulate the rate of power use over the course of a battery’s charge cycle.

The Future is Smart

Furthermore, when it comes to everything a BMS system has the potential to do, we are far from reaching the peak of this mountain yet. Just as computing, and even AI, systems have developed to almost frightening levels of sophistication recently, so too are batteries becoming increasingly “smart”.

Without development in this area millions of common products would be impossible, simply because smart batteries systems are found pretty much everywhere there is a battery in use. From the USB C rechargeable smart batteries produced by tech company Pale Blue Earth to the complex smart battery systems found onboard electric vehicles, batteries expend power efficiently and intelligently to an extent they never could before.

Enter Cell-balancing

One such way in which BMS can expend power more intelligently is in the use of cell balancing, which is an advanced function of certain smart battery systems. It is fairly commonplace these days (though little understood) and the difference it has made to battery performance has been marked.

The principle behind cell balancing is the coordination of different cells of different capacities during the charging cycle. The cells are wired in series and, without cell balancing, the battery only charges to the full capacity of the lowest capacity cell. This is because, without a smart battery system, the charging would naturally end at the point when the lowest capacity cell is charged.

With cell balancing, the charging can continue to a greater capacity. But, more than just that, cell balancing comes into its own at the other end of the scale as well. Cell balancing allows power from the larger capacity cells to be emptied into the lower capacity ones when it runs out – meaning the battery will simply last longer too.

Why We Need Cell Balancing

The benefits of cell balancing go beyond the simple optimization of the battery life and charging cycle. Without cell balancing, certain cells would be recharging and charging (0% to 100%) far more often than others. This will over time degrade the battery, simply because it is only as long-lasting or efficient as its weakest link, or lowest capacity cell.

As you might imagine, cell balancing is just that – a fairly complex balancing act, and one that is being constantly refined as the technology develops. The future that this offers then is nothing short of more powerful and longer lasting batteries – without any new materials used.

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