A $2.50 gadget that extends disposable battery life by 800 percent
June 2, 2015 9:08 AM   Subscribe

Batteriser is a simple metal sleeve that promises to give consumers up to eight times more life from their disposable batteries.

"...the basic concepts behind the voltage boost have been employed for years. Batteroo has simply scaled down the requisite hardware to a practical form factor."

"...only 2 percent of spent batteries are properly recycled, and the rest are thrown away, leading to soil contamination."
posted by monospace (57 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I kind of wonder why this isn't built into higher-end devices that use batteries. Or has Big Battery conspired with Big Gadget?
posted by zippy at 9:26 AM on June 2, 2015


You want to pay an extra $2.50 per battery?
posted by I-baLL at 9:29 AM on June 2, 2015


Yeah, and there was this guy who made this carburetor that got 100MPG on water, man. But Big Oil killed him, man.

When your battery voltage has rolled off by 20 percent, you have already used the vast bulk of the energy in that battery. A DC-DC voltage booster is not going to magically recover 5x more energy. And the available current is also going to go through the floor.

You can scavenge "fumes", but there is no free lunch.
posted by Hizonner at 9:30 AM on June 2, 2015 [13 favorites]


So it's a Joule Thief?
posted by odinsdream at 9:31 AM on June 2, 2015 [69 favorites]


So if it's joule thief type application, yes but no. I mean, I have a bunch of joule thieves doing little things, but there's precious little power available in a dead battery for most demanding purposes. Short bursts of power like a TV remote or a LED pocket light? Yeah, you can really draw a bit of extra of current out and even for a remarkable amount of time. But it's not going to make your digital camera run eight times longer.

(Edit: Jinx!)
posted by Kyol at 9:32 AM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]




zippy you beat me to it. For a cheap remote control or somesuch this would work because they wouldn't include the circuitry to save cost. I'd be very surprised if the trackpad pictured or the keyboard mentioned didn't have a simple power regulator circuit built in already. I design it into even the simplest stuff I build to prevent under and over voltages. It's cheap and easy if you know the voltage will be close.

They mention that RC cars are a good target - the electronics might be, but servos and motors are going to suffer because you're sacrificing amps to hold that happy 1.5 volts steady.

You want to pay an extra $2.50 per battery?

They are reusable forever (until they break or fail) so for any device it's only $2.50 per battery once. Still likely not worth it, but it's not $2.50 more for each battery.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 9:34 AM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd be concerned that altering the life cycle of existing batteries would invalidate the tested safety factor of their design and manufacture, particularly as regards leakage. According to this wikipedia article, alkaline battery leakage is caused by gases produced by discharging. By introducing a far deeper discharge cycle you have to wonder whether the battery's existing design will behave predictably as far as producing nasty gases and toxic residue.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:35 AM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


I kind of wonder why this isn't built into higher-end devices that use batteries.

Cost is one reason; another possible reason is that a circuit like this will get more energy out of a primary cell but can kill a rechargeable NiMH battery by overdischarging.
posted by Behemoth at 9:36 AM on June 2, 2015


Basically it boosts the voltage to 1.5 volts which lowers the current slightly. It's basically meant for those devices that tell you to use lithium AA batteries (which provide a constant 1.5v charge).

"They are reusable forever (until they break or fail) so for any device it's only $2.50 per battery once. Still likely not worth it, but it's not $2.50 more for each battery."

Eh, I misread zippy's comment:

"I kind of wonder why this isn't built into higher-end devices that use batteries"

as

"I kind of wonder why this isn't built into batteries"
posted by I-baLL at 9:37 AM on June 2, 2015


" By introducing a far deeper discharge cycle you have to wonder whether the battery's existing design will behave predictably as far as producing nasty gases and toxic residue."

The battery's existing design is meant for it to be discharged far lower than 1.3 volts however not all circuits will work lower than 1.3 volts. Remote controls though will, I think.
posted by I-baLL at 9:38 AM on June 2, 2015


odinsdream: So it's a Joule Thief?

Watts the matter with that?
posted by dr_dank at 9:42 AM on June 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


The battery's existing design is meant for it to be discharged far lower than 1.3 volts

I see what you mean; a flashlight bulb will already discharge a battery far beyond the point that, say, a bluetooth keyboard will.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:43 AM on June 2, 2015


(I actually keep a separate bin of "batteries too dead to run [high tech thing] anymore" for use in flashlights.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:47 AM on June 2, 2015


So it's a Joule Thief?

Watts the matter with that?


In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!
posted by maryr at 9:49 AM on June 2, 2015 [14 favorites]


This is pure snake oil.

Pretty much anything that can run on a regular 1.5V alkaline battery will work fine on a 1.2V NiMH battery. The constant power state of charge graph in this datasheet shows that an alkaline battery at 1.2V has less than 40% energy left. And most things will work just fine way below 1.2V.
posted by avian carrier at 9:52 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


You want to pay an extra $2.50 per battery?

For a sense of scale, retail AA batteries can be nearly $0.25 each. Even at 20% efficiency, it's still cheaper to buy a new conventional battery every time than build this into the batteries themselves.

The real question is: Why hasn't Apple built this into their keyboards? An additional $2.50 would be a one time cost for the devices the batteries are used in, and wouldn't obselete a whole industry. (And, of course, not just Apple, but everyone).
posted by bonehead at 9:53 AM on June 2, 2015


I mean, for reference's sake, here's Duracell's product data sheet. Note the first set of graphs showing constant current loads. Let's be reasonably gentle at 100mA drain and note that it falls off around 1.2->1.15v at 17 hours. Notice how little area under the curve remains before it's flat at 0.8v? That's what you're ekeing out here. And the usual mechanism involves boosting the current drawn to maintain the same output voltage, so the remaining power moves left to something more like the 200mA curve.

Which is to say, it works for momentary applications just fine, and even some sort-of momentary applications like LED pocket lights. You just don't notice the switching frequency. I'd be surprised if it significantly impacts the lifespan of an active bluetooth device, though.

ObConspiracy: That's what big battery WANTS you to believe, man!

(Side note, if you're of the mindset to try this sort of thing, I do encourage you to make a joule thief out any ol' transistor and RF choke you might have laying around. It's instructive! The circuit is remarkably flexible in my experience.)
posted by Kyol at 9:53 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Joule thief on Wikipedia, for background.
posted by swift at 9:56 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


So it's a Joule Thief?

Ohm my god, that's terrible ...
posted by carter at 9:58 AM on June 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


I flagged this - it's simply advertising for a scam product and has no background or other information that makes for a quality Metafilter post.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:59 AM on June 2, 2015 [9 favorites]


In order to make its numbers, the article dwells on the "device that won't work when the voltage drops below 1.4v" use case, as if that were typical. And if it were, then yes, per the Duracell graph linked above there's actually quite a bit of charge left in those batteries. But how common are such devices really?
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:07 AM on June 2, 2015


I don't know, it seemed like an interesting product to me, especially given the environmental impact of disposable batteries. I think the comments here are actually useful in explaining why this may not be as impactful as the manufacturer suggests, which is a good thing.
posted by monospace at 10:09 AM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Do people still buy disposable battteries? On purpose?
posted by Foosnark at 10:14 AM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


1. Editor suggested this for a post to write.
2. BS sensors went off but I'm not quite sure why.
3. Body navigates browser to metafilter.com of its own accord.
4. Thoughtful, informative discussion telling me exactly what I want to know in top 3 posts.

This is why I love this community.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 10:21 AM on June 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


I flagged this - it's simply advertising for a scam product and has no background or other information that makes for a quality Metafilter post.

I sympathize, but I'd like to keep the thread open, as I'm learning and rediscovering things about battery technology that are good to know. Also, the utility of this produce is more nuanced than scam/not scam, it seems to me. Depending upon the end-of-life voltage used by the powered device, it could provide miniscule to large benefit. I've reused batteries "dead" in one device to power a less sensitive device to extend battery life by 100% in some cases. Even if it only extends the life 20%, in terms of environmental impact, that could be huge.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:22 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


cf How to Recharge Batteries
posted by parrishioner at 10:25 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow, I can't wait to use this on the 32 AA batteries I get from each 6-Volt battery!!!
posted by FJT at 10:28 AM on June 2, 2015


The ecig world has used an adjustable thing called a "kick" for a while now. It lets you adjust the output voltage and sits inline with the battery. Not quite as small as the Batteriser though.
posted by hellphish at 10:37 AM on June 2, 2015


Sorry, I wasn't being flippant or punny with my Joule Thief comment. I really think it's a cleverly-packaged Joule Thief circuit design, using SMD components probably.

Like a lot of things, this falls victim to hype. Joule Thief circuits are really awesome for a lot of things, and really useless for a lot of other things. It's just silly to try and fit one model into a universal use-case and call it a failure.

For example, my daughter had a little night light that ran a tiny incandescent bulb off two AA batteries. This lasted like.. maybe a day. I replaced it with a simple blue LED running with a deadbugged joule thief using scavenged parts from a CFL, and it ran for a year... not like, a year of usage nightly. I mean a year of constantly being on. Yeah it was dim as shit at the end, but it's a night-light.

In conclusion, electronics is a land of contrasts.
posted by odinsdream at 10:39 AM on June 2, 2015 [12 favorites]


> Even if it only extends the life 20%, in terms of environmental impact, that could be huge.

If you use a battery once and throw it in the garbage, this is hugely wasteful, and getting an extra 20% is a marginal change at best - particularly when it isn't even really clear that we're getting that marginal 20%.

"Huge" is rechargeable batteries, which can be reused dozens of times (theoretically hundreds of times though that's never worked for me).
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:40 AM on June 2, 2015


Uh, it's $2.50 and the value of you not having to replace the battery as quickly and I thought we liked batteries that worked better.
posted by effugas at 10:40 AM on June 2, 2015


Remember those cell phone signal booster stickers?
posted by dirtdirt at 10:59 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Man, this is really teetering on the edge of bullshit snakeoil territory. I suspect it's much better at fooling battery gauges (like the charge % readout on your wireless keyboard) than actually boosting life. For high draw applications like flashlights it's probably worse (boosting voltage also boosts apparent internal resistance). And I suspect the Iq is going to be too high for really low draw applications like remote controls (anything where batteries tend to last over a year, say).

It would be really, really hard to optimize something like this to work well for both high draw and low draw devices.

But it's difficult to definitely shit on the idea without knowing the exact circuit / which switcher chip it's based on.
posted by ryanrs at 11:04 AM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Huge" is rechargeable batteries, which can be reused dozens of times (theoretically hundreds of times though that's never worked for me).

The better AA rechargers can "refresh" NiMH and NiCd batteries. I spent about $30 on one and it rescued about 5 batteries from death row. (However, some fully discharged batteries sometimes aren't even recognized by my charger; I have to put it on a cheap "dumb" charger for about 10 seconds and then switch it over, which is slightly absurd.)
posted by Foosnark at 11:10 AM on June 2, 2015


Notice how little area under the curve remains before it's flat at 0.8v?

OK, I think this device is about 85% bullshit, but I am compelled to point out that your curve is misleading because the y-axis is not continuous to zero.
posted by ryanrs at 11:11 AM on June 2, 2015


> Uh, it's $2.50 and the value of you not having to replace the battery as quickly

The utility for most people of "replacing batteries marginally less" is tiny. The utility of recharging the same batteries dozens or even hundreds of times is far greater.

The fact that none of the linked articles actually has a real person using these and reporting back is sketchy; the fact that the claimed results don't seem physically plausible is also sketchy. (I certainly believe that such a device is possible. I do not believe that you're going to get anywhere near "eight times" the battery life in any real world scenario, though I could easily create a device that would demonstrate almost any battery life multiplier you liked...)

All sorts of questions naturally come up - for example, all the things I have that hold batteries hold them very snugly, and it really isn't clear that I'll even be able to fit them into my device surrounded by a metal sleeve - but given we have no examples of humans actually using this, we simply have no way to answer these questions.

I think this might be marginally more legitimate than the cell phone reception stickers - but I still think that those are the model which this is following...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:15 AM on June 2, 2015


As an electrical engineer, I'd be somewhat less skeptical if it worked on pairs of cells instead of single cells. Most devices need more than one cell and the extra voltage makes it a lot easier to make a boost converter that isn't shit. There's a decent chance that a one cell design actually reduces total effective energy output, even if it results in a deeper cell discharge (because of 20-30% losses during the bulk of the discharge cycle).
posted by ryanrs at 11:27 AM on June 2, 2015


This may also be a good discussion in which to point out the absurdity of a patent that spends a huge amount of time re-stating inconsequential mechanical packaging details and almost no time on the actual circuit design.
posted by odinsdream at 11:31 AM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Huge" is rechargeable batteries, which can be reused dozens of times (theoretically hundreds of times though that's never worked for me).

The better AA rechargers can "refresh" NiMH and NiCd batteries. I spent about $30 on one and it rescued about 5 batteries from death row.


Seconding foosnark that a "smart" battery recharger will do wonders for getting a lot more life out of your rechargeables. There are also some trade-offs to be made in terms of mAh vs. lifetime vs. price of the rechargeable AAs you start with, but I've powered everything from a moderately high-end digital camera to remote controls and mice with rechargeables for ~10 years and in that time I've only had to toss the very earliest set of batteries I bought. The camera batteries, in particular, have definitely been recharged in the hundreds of times.

The real question is: Why hasn't Apple built this into their keyboards?

Forget batteries for keyboards - for his birthday I bought my brother a Logitech wireless solar keyboard primarily because it was the only wireless keyboard I could find that was Mac-compatible but didn't cost Apple-brand-name-prices. No batteries, and they say "solar" but it's more like the "solar" from solar-powered calculators - it can get enough juice to run itself just from being under an incandescent light. He tells me it works great, and ever since then I've wondered why all keyboards don't do that. And really, it seems like that should work with a lot of relatively low-power devices, like remote controls, too - I guess the issue is just having enough surface area to put the solar cells, maybe?
posted by mstokes650 at 11:38 AM on June 2, 2015


Ugh, to get good performance in all the different kinds of devices that use AA batteries, you'd want something like >80% efficiency over a 5000:1 range of currents, with a 0.9v input voltage, and an Iq < 50uA to keep up shelf life. Maybe they just say fuck you to devices that need more than 100mA?

on preview:
almost no time on the actual circuit design

If you can lock down the product space with patented industrial design regardless of circuit, then that's the right way to go. You eliminate competitors sidestepping your patent with circuit changes, and you keep web forums full of naysayers at bay by denying them a concrete design to disprove (that'd be us).
posted by ryanrs at 11:40 AM on June 2, 2015


This may also be a good discussion in which to point out the absurdity of a patent that spends a huge amount of time re-stating inconsequential mechanical packaging details and almost no time on the actual circuit design.

TFA says there is no IP in circuit design (which is hardly surprising), and it's all about miniaturization and packaging.
posted by Behemoth at 11:42 AM on June 2, 2015


He tells me it works great, and ever since then I've wondered why all keyboards don't do that.

You'd probably be able to recoup energy from keystrokes and have a completely self-powered unit, in fact. We have tons of cool electronics stuff that could be done, but good circuit design is truly an art form, and everything's sub-contracted out and people work in silos, you hardly ever have a product designed by one team.
posted by odinsdream at 11:44 AM on June 2, 2015


This is along the lines of those 5 dollar metal disks you were supposed to place on your cellphone in order to increase reception. It's nonsense and makes no sense from an engineering standpoint. Nice website layout though! (I'm gonna steal it)
posted by AGameOfMoans at 11:48 AM on June 2, 2015


TFA says there is no IP in circuit design

The analog power chip space is saturated with thousands of designs of every variation, and I seriously doubt these guys have the smarts or the funding to do better.
posted by ryanrs at 11:48 AM on June 2, 2015


For lots of batteries, one of the electrodes is actually the container and containment vessel for the battery, and if you consume too much of that electrode, a serious leak goes from being a small possibility to becoming a virtual certainty.

Battery manufacturers design that electrode to have considerable remaining thickness at the end of battery life to contain the corrosive materials inside.

This device essentially burns up that designed-in safety margin -- and I'd be surprised if any resulting leak didn't destroy it along with the device it's in.
posted by jamjam at 11:54 AM on June 2, 2015


You know, after briefly googling the founders, I'm more inclined to think this thing might be genuinely useful, rather than the kickstarter scam-like impression I started with. Still want to see the circuit though.
posted by ryanrs at 12:03 PM on June 2, 2015


Yeah, I'm not sure I get the scam accusations. It's a compact, very low-profile switcher contained in a battery cap type thing. We can debate the details of exactly how much extra energy it can extract or what the environmental impact will be, but it's an actual, plausible product that does a thing.
posted by Behemoth at 12:09 PM on June 2, 2015


Behemoth, yeah after looking around some more, there are some some switchers out there that could do this fairly well. LTC3526 is one.

(To be fair though, the 8x claim sets off about a million alarm bells. Maybe they can get that on a really poorly designed device. A solid 50% life increase on not-shit devices is a lot more believable.)
posted by ryanrs at 12:41 PM on June 2, 2015


"...only 2 percent of spent batteries are properly recycled, and the rest are thrown away, leading to soil contamination."

This is kind of misleading. Common alkaline batteries haven't contained mercury since 1996; groundwater contamination by the remaining metals (zinc and manganese) is not generally considered to be a concern. So it's generally OK to throw them in the trash with conventional waste. Recycling programs do exist, though, if you want to reduce the amount of trash that you're sending to the landfill; and in the state of California, you're actually required by law to recycle all batteries.

The pull quote above makes it sound like the 98% of batteries which are thrown away are hugely harmful to the soil, though, which is false. The most recent numbers I could find imply that alkaline batteries account for about 70% of battery sales by revenue; and given that they're much cheaper than other types, they almost certainly account for an even higher fraction of the number of batteries sold. The non-alkaline batteries are still a concern, of course, but at least some of those of those are things like watch batteries or dead rechargeable batteries that this device isn't designed to work with anyway.
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:10 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just fyi, you'll find AA NiMH batteries for under $1 on ebay, so they're cheaper long term.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:54 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!

I'm shocked!
posted by HiroProtagonist at 9:03 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


So it's a Joule Thief?

Exactly. It's not new technology.

It's current technology.

(I tried to resist.)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:13 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


(I tried to resist.)

Groan... I'm going ohm now.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 5:51 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Groan... I'm going ohm now.

Shoot. I was going to say "Ohm my Gawd!"

But then, puns this bad are assault and battery.

Sorry.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:21 AM on June 4, 2015


Dave Jones debunks the Batteriser.

(Good job if you can sit through 40 minutes of his emphatic oration, but he's a pretty knowledgable guy. He's well known for his videos reviewing electronic test equipment.)
posted by ryanrs at 7:00 AM on June 5, 2015


The more I think about it, the more I think Batteriser will succeed as a long-lived scam, making decent money from over time from various scammy sales channels like infomercials. Here's why.

The one thing Batteriser should be really good at is fooling the Low Battery indicator on low-drain devices when used with a mostly-discharged cell. So if you load your wireless keyboard with batteries without Batterisers, then wait for the Low Battery warning, then take out your batteries and put Batterisers on them, you will get some more life out of them. People will do this and think hey, it works!

What people won't do is time overall run life with no Batteriser vs. run life with a Batteriser installed from the beginning. If people did this, then most likely they would see that the Batteriser's idle power draw during the main part of the discharge curve probably more than cancels out the added time at the end of the battery life.

So if you use Batterisers full time, on a lot of low-drain devices the total run time will be decreased. But if you use batteries normally, then pop on the Batteriser when the cells are nearly dead, then you get a little more life.


That experience of putting a Batterizer on nearly dead cell and seeing your device report 100% life will be powerful evidence to most people. Pretty much no one is going to do a full life time test, which would take months. And if some journalist or blogger does a rigorous test and publishes it, plenty of people will discount it because of their own experience with adding a Batterizer to a dead cell.

10/10 Great scam.
posted by ryanrs at 7:45 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


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