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Power to the people

Power management in battery applications. By Mick Lovell.

Batteries: how we hate them when they let us down. Loss of battery power is a nuisance, particularly in today’s fast paced world of handheld communications. When a mobile phone or a pager doesn’t work or when a PDA loses it data, it can be very annoying to the consumer.
However, the very same situation could be ‘mission critical’. When a battery is used to power a real time clock on a motherboard or to back up the memory in a server, then you don’t want the battery to fail. Batteries in these applications are often unseen and usually difficult to access.
In many instances, ‘blade’ type servers, equipped with a lithium battery to back up memory, can be left unpowered for long periods of time. Nevertheless, the back up memory electronics require a minimum voltage level to maintain that mission critical data. Loss of this data can result in significant down time, frustration and, ultimately, lost revenue.
Clearly, some sensing of battery voltage is essential to maintain data integrity. In addition, the battery must be safe – that is, not put in a situation where it could explode. For example, a lithium battery could explode if it was overcharged by an auxiliary supply. Any monitoring function must, therefore, respect this requirement.

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Vanessa Knivett

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