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Monthly Science: Lithium Cells vs. Low Discharge Current

The amount of energy you can extract from a battery depends strongly on the discharge current, which is why the advertised capacity always exceeds the real-world capacity. Testing the NP-BX1 batteries for my Sony HDR-AS30V at about an amp produces a reasonable estimate of their run time in the camera:

Sony NP-BX1 - Wasabi GHIJK - 2017-09-01 - annotated
Sony NP-BX1 – Wasabi GHIJK – 2017-09-01 – annotated

Even though defunct cells lack enough capacity to keep the camera alive during a typical bike ride, they should power a microcontroller or astable multivibrator for quite a while.

My CBA II has a 100 mA minimum test current, which is far higher than the 15-ish mA drawn by the Arduino Pro Mini / Nano and SK6812 LEDs in a vacuum tube light, so these tests should provide a lower bound on the expected run time:

Defunct NP-BX1 for Blinkies and Glowies - AmpHr - 2019-01
Defunct NP-BX1 for Blinkies and Glowies – AmpHr – 2019-01

The two dotted lines show a “good” battery (Wasabi 2017 K) tested at 100 mA has a 1 A·h capacity similar to the “defunct” batteries. Testing at 1 A drops the capacity by a factor of two and eliminates the relatively constant voltage part of its discharge curve.

Handwaving: a 15 mA load on a battery with 1 A·hr capacity should run for 66 hours, ignoring nuances like the Arduino’s minimum voltage requirement and LED minimum forward voltages.

A few days of informal (“Oh, it stopped a while ago”) testing showed 50 hour run times, with little difference in the results for batteries with 800 mA·h and 1300 mA·h capacity:

Arduino Pro Mini - NP-BX1 cell - SK6812 - blue phase
Arduino Pro Mini – NP-BX1 cell – SK6812 – blue phase

The red power LED remains on long after the SK6812 LEDs dim out and the Arduino stops running. The blue and green LEDs fade before the red LED.

The run time test data:

Arduino Pro Mini - NP-BX1 run times - single SK6812 - 2019-01
Arduino Pro Mini – NP-BX1 run times – single SK6812 – 2019-01

The 100 mA graph plotted against watt·hours has a similar shape:

Defunct NP-BX1 for Blinkies and Glowies - 2019-01
Defunct NP-BX1 for Blinkies and Glowies – 2019-01

You’d use those results for a constant power load similar to a camera or, basically, any electronics with a boost supply.

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