Battery Technology and The Effects on Your Devices September 19 2014

Many of today’s medical devices run on batteries.  And though most people understand how batteries work by storing chemical energy that is discharged over time as electrical energy, most people do not know that there are two distinct classifications of batteries. Primary batteries irreversibly discharge their energy; when the battery is empty, it stays that way forever. Secondary Batteries can be recharged. When a current is put back into the battery, it reverses the chemical process that allowed the batteries to discharge energy, recharging them so they can be reused. This generally provides a cost savings over primary batteries. Though the initial investment can be much higher, over time the costs even out or are in favor of the rechargeable option. Rechargeable batteries also make life easier on Healthcare’s Materials Management Team who no longer have to buy new batteries every week or month, they simply buy one and it is recharged as needed.

Rechargeable batteries are offered in a variety of forms.  Being they are the most commonly used in healthcare devices, this article will focus on two types: Nickel Cadmium – or NiCad (like the Welch Allyn NiCad Rechargeable Battery), and Lithium Ion – or LiON (like the Welch Allyn Lithium Ion Rechargeable Battery). NiCad batteries are an older technology, but still very popular. They are less expensive than LiON batteries because of the materials used and the simpler manufacturing process. They are acceptable at maintaining a charge, but they do require charging more often than LiON batteries. They store a moderate amount of energy for their size, but are less popular than more modern battery technologies. They do retain popularity because of their lower cost and adequate specifications, which add up to a good solution for the budget conscious medical office.

 Lithium Ion batteries have many advantages over the more traditional NiCad batteries, and also a few disadvantages.  Since their manufacturing involves more rare materials and complicated manufacturing processes, they have higher costs.  They are also susceptible to heat damage and require very specific charging voltage. If they are overheated or introduced to too much current, they can fail rather dramatically due to the flammability of certain components of the battery cell. That said, they retain energy much more efficiently than NiCad batteries and have very low self-discharge rates. When a  LiON battery is charged, it will be ready for use even months later, when other batteries may have emptied themselves. LiON batteries also store more energy in a smaller space, which means that a LiON battery will allow your device to operate much longer than a comparatively sized NiCad battery. They are particularly well suited for devices that require a lot of energy, like many medical devices.

 Which battery type you choose will be dependent on your office practices, and your medical device usage.