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Battery Charger Chemistry 101

by Yash Ranjan
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Batteries are an important part of modern life, powering everything from your torch to your mobile phone. So many popular devices are reliant on battery power!

Every time you recharge a battery, you’re benfitting from the effects of chemical compounds and reactions. Understanding how these chemicals work can help you better understand your technologies and devices. 

Here’s our beginner’s guide to help you learn the basics of battery charger chemistry!

What is a battery charger?

While some batteries are designed for only a limited period of use, increasingly, rechargeable batteries are becoming available. 

Rechargeable batteries consist of reversible cell reactions that allow them to be recharged when they run flat. They can regain their cell potential before discharging energy again. 

A battery charger is a device that can restore a battery’s energy by running an electric current through it over a period of time, providing it with energy that is then available to power devices.

The chemistry of battery charging

Charging a battery is an electrochemical process but not because of the chemicals in the charger. 

Different types of batteries include different chemical makeups, but all rechargeable batteries share a few basic features. In all batteries, cells are compartments used to generate the power needed for the battery to store and discharge energy.

Typically, when you use a battery-powered device, you trigger a series of chemical reactions within the battery. As an electric current begins to flow, the cells in the battery begin to transform and rearrange. 

Within each cell, two electrical terminals (electrodes) and the electrolyte chemical between them begin to interact, triggering chemical reactions. Tiny particles within atoms called electrons then travel around the circuit the battery is connected to, carrying electricity. 

This process soon comes to an end, as batteries can carry only a finite amount of energy. When they run out, the power runs flat, and the battery can no longer power devices. The solution is to use a battery charger to trigger this chemical reaction in reverse. 

By connecting a battery to a battery charger, you can trigger the batter chemicals to work backwards until they arrive back at their original state. Then the battery is ready to be used all over again.

The effects of overcharging

Over time, even rechargeable batteries degrade and may lose their capacity to hold or distribute high levels of energy. Overcharging is one factor that can cause batteries to deteriorate quickly.

When a battery is fully charged but remain as connected to a battery charger, it is fuelled by excess energy, which it must dispose of. 

In lieu of expending energy to power a device, the battery instead heats up and builds pressure, all while continuing to draw further energy from the battery charger, perpetuating the process. Over time, these responses can cause batteries to become damaged, even leaking chemicals or exploding. 

To ensure that rechargeable batteries and battery chargers last as long as possible, it’s important to charge batteries until they are fully charged, then turn off your charger. 

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