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Lithium batteries and disposable electronic.

Some days ago I blogged about my addiction to rechargeable batteries since that I tried to spend some more time to improve my routine with them. First I started using the 2-in-1 feature of my TV’s remote: this way I can use two AAA batteries to control both TV and DVD player, rather than having four of them for two remotes; in the pretty rare case that I need the DVD reader remote, I can just put one of the extra pairs into it and be done with it.

Today I started wondering about another class of batteris, the button-sized ones, as used in watches and most modern electronic devices and mini-devices. Although most of them are low-grade Zinc-Carbon batteries, a lot of CR20* batteries are found nowadays on consumer electronics, and those are mostly Lithium-based batteries.

The most common type of these batteries is probably the CR2032 size, used in almost every modern desktop motherboard (laptops often use CR2016 instead) to keep providing energy to the Real-Time Clock while the PC is powered off and to keep powered the “CMOS” non-volatile BIOS memory. It’s a 3V Lithium-based battery, lasting between 2 and 10 years, depending on power off times (and with power off I mean the PSU not receiving power, as the standby mode of modern ATX systems keeps the motherboard powered on in a 5V low-consume state); when it comes to a certain friend of mine, it takes about one year to consume, don’t ask me why.

I have a little drawer full of these batteries, as I usually take them off the motherboards that I need to trash, or when I help disposing of older computers.

What I’m wondering now is.. are those batteries rechargeable? Nowadays those batteries start appearing in everything, even the two Apple Remotes I have (one for the MacBook Pro, one for the AppleTV) use those. I wouldn’t be surprised if they started appearing in TVs and DVDs controllers: I see their price dropping year by year: some years ago they were sold at L. 18.000 (about €9 if we use the current conversion ration, but considering the time passed, it’s more like €18 of today), while I can easily find them nowadays at €4 or €2 if I take a 50-reel.

The issue is that if these aren’t rechargeable, their environmental impact might be higher than the rechargeable AAA batteries I use now. Of course, on the other hand, these batteries are supposed to last quite longer than usual batteries, so you might end up using less of them on the same timeframe, reducing the impact. If they are rechargeable, instead, I’d gladly start recharging them and start using them more 🙂

It is quite interesting to know whether they are, on the long run, cheaper and more environment-friendly than alkaline batteries, or even or rechargeable batteries: they are supposedly quite more reliable on long times. In those cases, it would be nice to have an “adapter” that fills in AA– or AAA-sized compartments.

And for the record, these are some places where you most likely will find lithium or other button-sized batteries, even if for some people this is unexpected: PC motherboards, laptops, digital cameras and camcorders (for the non-volatile memory and RTC), microwaves with alarm clocks, Apple Remote devices, DVD/HDD recorders, modern pure-digital (LCD or Plasma) TVs, old cartridges for cartridge-based game systems (Sega Master System, Sega Mega Drive, Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, as well as portables like GameBoy up to GameBoy Advance – Nintendo DS use flash-based game cards), car HiFi, personal audio players, light-based gadgets…

Now you see why I’m interested in reusing as much as possible this resource, too.

Comments 2
  1. those things are not rechargeable, usually with good reason.Rechargeable NiCd/Mh etc have much higher internal leakage, so such system couldn’t tolerate being long in inactive state.Besides that, one have to take care of charging the accu when in use and not overcharge it and this means having special electronics onboard with another set of complications.Rechargeable Li-Ion are better with respect to leakage, but stil require complicated charger.All in all, it’s not worth the complications for that few nW of power that it takes to drive a RTC and a couple bits of RAM…

  2. Diego, I’m also addicted to rechargeable batteries. However I’ve seen high failure rates. I bought a ton of rechargeables and have since seen many permanently fail to charge (the charger actually blinks a red light trying to charge them), hold very little charge, etc…many of these on batteries that have only been used once or twice.I have my revenge though…when this happens I collect and save them. I recently complained to the Energizer company about my problems and they sent a box for me to ship them in. A couple weeks later I had $45 worth of coupons to buy new batteries.I have about a another six saved up so far since then. 🙂

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