Ask the experts: Batteries


Kieran Foster TV-Bay Magazine
Read ezine online
by Kieran Foster
Issue 98 - February 2015

1. What steps has the battery industry taken to make their products more environmentally friendly? Is there any more that can be done?

In our industry, the best way to tackle any environmental issues is to focus on the efficiency of the battery. Maximum product life is part of the design philosophy of Anton/Bauer. By designing for maximum performance, durability, and serviceability for upgrades, the carbon footprint of our products is reduced. A major component of this philosophy is designing chargers which are multi battery chemistry tolerant and allow for upgrades. As new cell technologies emerge, improved charge algorithms are developed, which not only improve capacity, but battery cycle life as well. And, with upgradeable chargers already existing in the field, new software can be easily implemented to fully leverage battery advances.

One area that has an environmental impact is the disposal of batteries, and manufacturers of the higher quality products have helped to reduce this. Many of the less expensive batteries have a life expectancy of just six months, rather than the better manufactured versions which last between two and five years. In the long term, there is a far bigger effect on the environment from the disposing of and recycling of the less efficient batteries.

2. How important is battery safety to both users and manufacturers? What measures is Anton/Bauer taking to ensure battery safety?

In battery design, the topic of safety is paramount. For manufacturers like ourselves, safety is our highest priority and the design is a fundamental part of that - so our range of batteries are constructed with a focus on keeping individual cells separated from one another by a minimum of 2mm. This is accomplished through the use of an individual honeycomb structure which not only isolates them, but ensures that they are less likely to be affected by a potential impact.
When it comes to dissipating the actual heat, most battery cases are close to the cell pack itself which can cause issues because there isn't enough of an airspace. We have changed the design of our battery cases to facilitate larger air volume inside. In addition, we have added a rubber buffer system all around the cell system to work as a shock absorber should the battery be dropped or jolted.

One of our latest safety features, the fuse link connector, will help to minimise the likelihood of any failures. It is placed at the end of each cell, so if there is a leak or a problem, the connector automatically breaks to stop the battery working so the problem can be properly detected.
From an electrical viewpoint, our digital batteries are also extremely safe. Thermal sensors continually monitor the battery, and if a rise in temperature is detected, a switch is opened to prevent further charge or discharge. Similarly, the charge and discharge currents are continually monitored, and if too much current is flowing, the battery switches off.

3. How can batteries - specifically Lithium-ion batteries be made safer and more robust?

Lithium-ion is the battery chemistry that will be powering our industry for at least the next five years. It provides the best performance available to us today, as it has a very high-energy density, is reasonably priced and, if managed and contained correctly, is perfectly safe. A high proportion of users are looking for batteries that are lighter, cheaper and more powerful. Lithium-ion chemistry enables battery manufacturers to meet these needs.

The key to this reliable power source is that it is safe when used correctly, however users need to take the time to ensure that the batteries running their equipment are from a reputable vendor that puts the safety of their production first.

The issue with Lithium-ion is not that it is inherently unstable, but that it burns without external oxygen. Once it is on fire, it is very difficult to put out, since most ways of extinguishing fire involve removing the external source of oxygen. Typically the anode, electrolyte and cathode are constructed as a thin sandwich and then rolled to create a cylindrical canister, about the size of an AA battery.

Before a cell can be released to the market, it is rigorously tested both physically and electrically and will only be sold if these tests are passed successfully. A single cell is very safe, however the configuration used to provide the voltage and power needed for media applications combines between 12 and 24 of these individual cells in a pack, so a second level of safety design is required to make sure the cells do not interact with each other.

4. How have the needs of battery users - in terms of performance, quality and safety - changed over the last few years?

One of the major shifts in the industry, driven specifically by the latest camera technology, is the reduction in the size of equipment. This has had a huge impact on the needs of battery users - kits are becoming smaller, yet still incorporate the same high performance. In particular, the proliferation of smaller digital video cameras has affected battery size and voltage requirements, which have reduced by almost half.

In the current market, battery manufacturers are focusing on several key differentiators - safety, reliability, performance and cost effectiveness. Performance and reliability may be crucial elements for camera operators. However, these are the most straightforward areas for manufacturers, critical issues such as safety and cost can be more complex and challenging.
The needs of battery users also differ according to specific applications. For example, with cine style, cameras operators tend to look for batteries with a form factor that fit on to the back of a camera without impeding on the other attachments, such as view finders and focus pullers. The battery needs to blend into the camera body while providing the higher amperage and higher voltage required for cine applications. On the other hand, when it comes to body worn camera mounts such as an Artemis or other stabilising systems - weight is the crucial factor, and with ENG applications the highest priorities for batteries from users is the ability to power a camera for a long time, be reliable and charge up quickly.

Regardless of the specific applications, camera technology will never stand still. Batteries, are clearly vital to the power and performance of every new camera and key manufacturers will have to ensure their technology evolves alongside the cameras and is compatible with any new releases.

5. What can be done by users to ensure the performance of batteries?

Before choosing a power source for a production, it is important that the operator understands the battery's design and its safety features. Users need to take the time to ensure that the batteries running their equipment are from a reputable vendor that puts their safety and that of their production first.

Cost is often an issue when operators are shooting on tight budgets, and lifecycle costs should certainly be considered rather than just the initial product price. The less expensive batteries may initially be more attractive due to cost, but over time their performance and run-time cannot match competitors which have been manufactured and designed using better processes and technology. As mentioned earlier, the lifecycles vary greatly, cheaper batteries need to be replaced after just six months, as opposed to two to five years for the better manufactured versions.

The performance of a battery is inextricably linked to factors such as cost effectiveness, reliability and safety, and every operator should consider all of these elements together rather than focusing on one area. Purchasing batteries that have been better designed will provide the required levels of safety, value for money and performance that the
industry demands.


Tags: iss098 | ask the experts | batteries | anton bauer | litepanels | dionic | environmental impact | Kieran Foster
Contributing Author Kieran Foster

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