Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Battery drain test on anniversary gift clock

Last month, on June 2, 2015, I celebrated working for Hewlett-Packard/Agilent Technologies/Keysight Technologies for 35 years. During the earlier times of my career, on significant anniversaries such as 10 years or 20 years, employees could choose from a catalog of gifts to have their contributions to the company recognized. That tradition has been discontinued, but I did select a couple of nice gifts over the years. During my HP days, one gift I selected was a clock with a stand shown here:
I have had that clock for decades and it uses a silver oxide button cell battery (number 371). I have to replace the battery about once per year and wondered if that made sense based on the battery capacity and the current drain the clock presents to the battery. I expected the battery to last longer so I wanted to know if I was purchasing inferior batteries. These 1.5 V batteries are rated for about 34 mA-hours. So I set out to measure the current drain using our N6705B DC Power Analyzer with an N6781A 2-Quadrant Source/Measure Unit for Battery Drain Analysis power module installed. Making the measurement was simple…..making the connections to the tiny, delicate battery connection points was the challenging part. After one or two failed attempts (I was being very careful because I did not want to damage the connections), I solicited the help of my colleague, Paul, who handily came up with a solution (thanks, Paul!). Here is the final setup and a close-up of the connections:

I set the N6781A voltage to 1.5 V and used the N6705B built-in data logger to capture current drawn by the clock for 5 minutes, sampling voltage and current about every 40 us. The clock has a second hand and as expected, the current showed pulses once per second when the second hand moved (see Figure 1). Each current pulse looks like the one shown in Figure 2. There was an underlying 200 nA being drawn in between second-hand movements. All of this data is captured and shown below in Figure 3 showing the full 5 minute datalog along with the amp-hour measurement (0.28 uA-hours) and average current measurement (3.430 uA) between the markers.

Given the average current draw, I can calculate how long I would expect a 34 mA-hour battery to last:

                 34 mAh / 3.430 uA average current = 9912.54 hours = about 1.13 years

This is consistent with me changing the battery about every year, so once again, all makes sense in the world of energy and electronics (whew)! Thanks to the capabilities of the N6705B DC Power Analyzer, I now know the batteries I’m purchasing are lasting the expected time given the current drawn by the clock. How much current is your product drawing from its battery?


  1. It is an excellent post which is really helpful for me to understand battery behaviors regarding charge and discharge cycle. I also perform battery charge and discharge cycle testing on solar inverter systems.

  2. The Keysight N6781A is a source/measure unit (SMU) designed specifically for the task of battery drain analysis. Whether the device-under-test (DUT) is an e-Book reader, MP3 player, mobile phone, or pacemaker, the N6781A’s seamless measurement ranging, programmable output resistance, and auxiliary DVM combine to be the best set of advanced features on the market for battery drain analysis. When used with the 14585A Control and Analysis software, the N6781A becomes an even more powerful battery drain analysis solution, offering additional insights into your measurements.

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