Tuesday, June 16, 2015

When is it best to use a battery or a power supply for testing my battery powered device?

As I do quite a bit of work with mobile battery powered devices I regularly post articles here on our “Watt’s Up?” blog about aspects on testing and optimizing battery life for these devices. As a matter of fact my posting from two weeks ago is about the webcast I will be doing this Thursday, June 18th: “Optimizing Battery Run and Charge Times of Today’s Mobile Wireless Devices”. That’s just two days away now!

With battery powered devices there are times it makes sense to use the device’s actual battery when performing testing and evaluation work to validate and gain insights on optimizing performance. In particular you will use the battery when performing a battery run-down test, to validate run-time. Providing you have a suitable test setup you can learn quite a few useful things beyond run-time that will give insights on how to better optimize your device’s performance and run-time. I go into a number of details about this in a previous posting of mine: “Zero-burden ammeter improves battery run-down and charge management testing of battery-powered devices”. If you are performing this kind of work you should find this posting useful.

However, there are other times when it makes sense to use a power supply in place of the device’s battery, to power up the device for the purpose of performing additional types of testing and evaluation work for optimizing the device’s performance. One major factor for this is the power supply can be directly set to specific levels which remain fixed for the desired duration. It eliminates the variability and difficulties of trying to do likewise with a battery, if at all possible. In most all instances it is important that the power supply provides the correct characteristics to properly emulate the battery. This includes:
  • Full two-quadrant operation for sourcing and sinking current and power
  • Programmable series resistance to simulate the battery’s ESR

These characteristics are depicted in the V-I graph in figure 1.


Figure 1: Battery emulator power supply output characteristics

Note that quadrant 1 operation is emulating when the battery is providing power to the device while quadrant 2 is emulating when the battery is being charge by the device.


A colleague here very recently had an article published that goes into a number of excellent reasons why and when it is advantageous to use a power supply in place of trying to use the actual battery, “Simulating a Battery with a Power Supply Reaps Benefits”. I believe you will find this to also be a useful reference.

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