Battery life is critical for most of today’s electronics, yet there is no systematic way to compare battery performance based on chemistry or application. Industry is currently unable to answer important design questions until after the product has been built. For example, if a product needs to last five hours and the application needs the smallest battery that will work, which battery should be used? Estimates based on published capacities are typically unreliable.
This directly affects Honeywell engineers at the Kansas City National Security Campus (KCNSC) in the Advanced Radio Frequency group. There are a number of projects involving battery-powered radios currently in progress. One of the challenges of using batteries to power radios is that the radio power demand can vary by several orders of magnitude; the device may draw a few micro-amps in a sleep state, a few milli-amps when receiving, and more than an amp when transmitting. That makes it impossible to predict how long a battery will last under real world scenarios without rigorous testing, which is time consuming and labor-intensive.
Honeywell Engineers Jeffrey VanDeusen and Daniel Deavours developed a new tool that automates that process and accurately and efficiently measures the power draw that a device places on a battery. Using traditional source/measurement systems, the accuracy would be limited to the high current setting and not provide an accurate representation of the application.
The new system’s measurements are precise and seamless over many orders of magnitude and can record data for hours. Then, the same tool can simulate the power draw of the radio and measure how a battery would respond. Using the tool, we are now able to quickly test different radio profiles and different batteries to ensure mission success in any situation.