Magazine article USA TODAY

That Bouncing Battery Is Not Dead Yet

Magazine article USA TODAY

That Bouncing Battery Is Not Dead Yet

Article excerpt

Do not throw away those bouncing batteries. Researchers at Princeton (N.J.) University have found that the common test of bouncing a household battery to learn if it is dead actually is not an effective way to check a battery's charge. 'The bounce does not tell you whether the battery is dead or not; it just tells you whether the battery is fresh," says Daniel Steingart, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

The battery bounce test, popularized in online videos, shows that fully-charged batteries bounce very little when dropped, while those that have been used for a while bounce higher. The height of the bounce increases as the batteries discharge, and that has led to the common conclusion that internal changes related to the reduction in charge are the cause of the higher bounce.

Steingart was intrigued by how the bouncing changed as batteries discharged--it was not a linear increase. Instead, the height increased rapidly and then leveled off. His research team has been working for some time on internal changes related to battery discharge, and he wondered whether the changing bounces reflected an important change in the batteries.

They devised a quick experiment in which they dropped a common battery through a plexiglass tube and used a computer microphone to record it striking a benchtop. The researchers then were able to use the time between bounces to determine the height of the bounce.

"What I really loved about this experiment is that the result holds a lot of scientific importance, but it is also the kind of thing I can show to someone without a scientific background and they can still get something out of it," notes Shoham Bhadra, a graduate student in electrical engineering and lead author of the research paper reporting the findings. …

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