13.3 The Evolving Battery
The Li-ion battery has not yet matured. Chemical compositions change as often as once every six months. According to Moli Energy, a large manufacturer of Li-ion batteries, the chemical composition of Li-based batteries changes every six months. New chemicals are discovered that provide better load characteristics, higher capacities and longer storage life. Although beneficial to consumers, these improvements wreak havoc with battery testing equipment that base quick test algorithms on fixed parameters. Why do these changes in battery composition affect the results of a quick tester?
The early Li-ion batteries, notably the coke-based variety, exhibited a gradual drop of voltage during discharge. With newer graphite-based Li-ion batteries, flatter voltage signatures are achieved. Such batteries provide a more stable voltage during most of the discharge cycle. The rapid voltage drop only occurs towards the end of discharge.
A ‘hardwired’ tester looks for an anticipated voltage drop and estimates the SoH according to fixed references. If the voltage-drop changes due to improved battery technology, erroneous readings will result.
Diverse metals used in the positive electrode also alter the open terminal voltage. Manganese, also referred to as spinel, has a slightly higher terminal voltage compared to the more traditional cobalt. In addition, spinel ages differently from cobalt. Although both cobalt and spinel systems belong to the Li-ion family, differences in readings can be expected when the batteries are quick tested side-by-side.
The Li-ion polymer has a dissimilar composition to the Li-ion and responds in a different way when tested. Instruments capable of checking Li-ion batteries may not provide reliable readings when quick testing Li-ion polymer batteries.
13.4 The Cadex Quicktest™ Method
A battery quick text must be capable of adapting to new chemical combinations as introduced from time to time. Cadex solves this by using a self-learning fuzzy logic algorithm. Used to measure analog variances in an assortment of applications, fuzzy logic is known to the industry as a universal approximator. Along with unique learning capabilities, this system can adapt to new trends. Similar to a student adapting to the complexity of a curriculum, the system learns with each battery tested. The more batteries that are serviced, the higher the accuracy becomes.
Cadex Quicktest™ is built on the new Cadex 7000 Series battery analyzer platform. This system features interchangeable battery adapters that contain the battery configuration codes (C-codes). When installed, the adapter sets the analyzer to the correct battery parameters (chemistry, voltage rating, etc.).
To enable quick testing, the battery adapters must also contain the matrix settings for the serviced battery. While matrices for the most common batteries are included when acquiring the adapter, the user is asked to enter the information on those adapters that have not yet been prepared for quick testing. This can be done in the field by ‘scanning’ the working battery.
The ‘Learn’ program of the Cadex 7000 Series battery analyzer performs this task by applying charge-discharge-charge activities on the test battery. Similar to downloading a program into a PC, the information derived from the battery sets the matrices and prepares the Cadex Quicktest™ function. The ‘Learn’ program completes its cycle within approximately four hours. One learning cycle is the minimal requirement to enable the Cadex Quicktest™ function.
With only one battery learned or scanned, the confidence level is ‘marginal’. Running additional batteries through the learning program will fill the matrix registers and the confidence level will increase to ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. Like a bridge that needs several pillars for proper support, the most accurate quick test results are achieved by scanning individual batteries that have SoH readings of around 100, 80 and 60 percent. The confidence level attained for a given battery adapter is indicated on the LCD panel of the analyzer.
The Cadex Quicktest™ can be performed with charge levels between 20 and 90 percent. Within this range, different charge levels do not affect the readings. If the battery is insufficiently charged, or has too high a charge, a message appears and the analyzer automatically applies the appropriate charge or discharge to bring the battery within testing range. Charging or discharging a battery immediately prior to taking the reading does not affect the Cadex Quicktest™ results.
The reader may ask whether the Cadex Quicktest™ system can also learn incorrectly. No — once the learning cycles have been completed for a given battery, the matrix settings are firm and resilient. Testing bad batteries will not affect the setting.
Spoilage is only possible if a number of bad batteries are purposely put through the ‘Learn’ program in an attempt to alter the existing matrix. Such would be the case when scanning a batch of batteries that have not been properly formatted, have been in prolonged storage, or are of poor quality. To protect the existing matrix from spoilage when adding learning cycles, the system checks each new vector reading for its integrity before accepting the information as a valid reference. Learned readings obtained from defective batteries are rejected.
If a battery adapter has lost its integrity as part of ‘bad learning’, the matrix setting can be erased and re-taught. As an alternative, Cadex will make recommended matrices available on the Internet. Users may also want to exchange learned matrix information with each other. Copying battery adapters by inserting a recognized adapter into the analyzer will achieve this. Another method is ‘Webcasting’ the matrices over the Internet.