Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Batteries are the lifeblood of virtually all of our electronic gadgets, and there are a number of different technologies that go into making batteries that can perform a bunch of different tasks. There are lead based batteries, lithium ion batteries, nickel metal hydride batteries, nickel cadmium batteries, and even various kinds of biological batteries under development. Batteries can be disposable or they can be rechargeable, and the rechargeable types can come in sizes like AA, AAA, D, and 9 volt; or in the form of custom made battery packs to fit in specific devices. Some rechargeable batteries are even built into gadgets so that they can't be changed. (Considering that batteries tend to last less time than the devices that they power, this practice could be seen as planned obsolescence! It's certainly sparked a number of complaints over the years.)
With the introduction of all of these different kinds of batteries and all of the places that people use the gadgets that they power, there have been a variety of gadgets that have come onto the market in order to charge those batteries. Most often, gadgets come with AC power packs that can be plugged into the gadgets themselves. These power packs allow the devices to function off of normal wall current as well as charge up their own built in batteries. A big plus to gadgets that have this option is that even if the batteries are permanently built in, many gadgets can still continue to function when plugged into a wall. This probably won't be much of an advantage to iPhone owners when the batteries of those six hundred dollar gadgets wear out, but it can certainly help with devices that are more stationary. The inclusion of AC power packs also helps out with gadgets that have removable batteries more life after those batteries die. For example there are lots of old laptop computers that are perfectly functional even though their batteries are no good anymore. There are also other kinds of adapters available that allow gadgets to be powered off of the twelve volt electrical systems of automobiles and to charge their batteries off of that same current.
Many of the gadgets that charge batteries are designed for specific environments and power sources. For example there are gadgets that can be plugged into car electrical systems that will charge AA and AAA batteries for digital cameras. These are a great option for any photographer that likes to take pictures far from any conventional outlet. There are also similar battery chargers that can plug into the USB port of a laptop computer. If the laptop happens to have an adapter that plugs into an automobile's electrical system, then the user can charge the batteries for the camera or other device at the same time as charging the battery in the laptop.
Solar battery chargers also have their uses. For example, there are models that are designed to charge AA, AAA, D cells, C cells, and the like. These are good for extended trips in the outdoors and are even better when the solar cells themselves are the flexible kind that are sewn onto backpacks. It's also possible to get a solar panel that feeds power directly into a twelve volt vehicle battery. This can be used along with other types of battery chargers to create a standalone off the grid power system. It can also be used to help maintain the charge of a battery in a vehicle so that it won't be run down by running other devices off of it when it isn't being driven that often.
The right gadgets, the right batteries, and a little creativity will allow us to use our gadgets just about anywhere!