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Tuesday, March 25, 2008 - Ask Guy
A reader wrote to ask:

Ni-Cd. What is this kind of battery? Are there different sizes?

Well, I'm not sure I know why the reader wrote and asked, but I was in the mood to respond.

In fact, it seemed like so much fun, I'll open it up to anyone. If you have a question, about anything you think I might know about, simply write me and ask it. I'll do my best to choose some questions and answer them, particularly on slow days... Ask anything...

So, anyway, my answer:

These are Nickel-Cadmium batteries. They are an older type rechargeable battery, available in all of the usual sizes (A, AA, AAA, C, D, etc.). The downside of this technology, is that they often developed of a “memory”, whereby you could fully charge them, but not get full use out of them, if you did not first deplete every ounce of power from them.

A newer type of rechargeable battery that has largely replaced NiCad batteries is NMHi, or NiMH batteries, or Nickel Metal Hydride. These can be found at most major retailers, again, in all of the usual sizes. Allegedly they do not suffer from the memory effect, but, sometimes it still happens.

Both Ni-Cad and NiMH batteries also suffer from a condition whereby, even if fully charged, if left on a shelf and unused for a few months, the remaining charge is likely to be very low. So, just by sitting around, it’s like you’re using them up. These batteries also come from the store with no charge, and must be charged before first use.

The newest type of batteries that I’ve been using are called “hybrid” and have a couple different brand names. Rayovac’s brand is called simply Hybrid. Another one is Sanyo’s Eneloop brand. All of these come in the usual sizes.

The hybrid batteries come from the store fully charged and ready to go, and, once charged, hold their charge long after other rechargeables have lost all of theirs.

Finally, two other technologies for batteries are in widespread use, including lithium ion (Li-ion) and lithium ion polymer (Li-ion polymer). These are the kinds of batteries most often found in cell phones, and laptops, and I’m not aware that they’re available in the regular consumer sizes like A, AA, and such.


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