Laptop batteries have come a long way since the first battery-powered portable computers began to appear in the 1980s. Although you may never have stopped to think about what your laptop's battery is made of, laptop batteries have been made with several different types of electrical chemistry. Without the many advancements that have taken place, it would not be possible for you to compute on the go for several hours at a time.
Nickel cadmium (NiCd) batteries use nickel and cadmium as their electrical conductors. NiCd batteries were popular for use in laptops and other consumer devices such as portable audio players until their peak in the 1990s, thanks to their low cost. By this point, however, the demands of laptop computers began to outstrip what NiCd batteries were capable of. NiCd batteries also suffered from the "memory effect," which decreased their maximum life if they were charged repeatedly after being only partially discharged.
Nickel Metal Hydride
The conductors in nickel metal hydride (NiMH) are nickel alloys. NiMH batteries were popular in laptops until recently, and remain popular for use in other consumer devices such as cameras. While NiMH batteries tend to have superior life compared to NiCd batteries, they too suffer from the memory effect, and cannot power a device for as long as lithium-ion batteries.
Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries use lithium ions as their conductors. Li-ion batteries are currently the most popular for use in laptops, thanks to their low weight and high level of power. Additionally, Li-ion batteries do not suffer from the memory effect. They are expensive, though, and have the undesirable side effect of exploding if being recharged for too long. Li-ion batteries come equipped with numerous safety features to prevent them from overcharging to the danger point.
Lithium-ion polymer (LiP) batteries use lithium as their conductors. However, the lithium is incorporated into a solid polymer rather than being in a liquid state. Many Mac laptops use LiP batteries, popular because they are light and easy to manufacture in different shapes. The design flexibility of LiP batteries has lent them well to small-form factor devices such as portable MP3 players.
In the future, laptops may power up with batteries using silver and zinc as their conductors. Proponents of silver-zinc batteries claim that the technology can add as much as 40 percent to the battery life of a laptop. Additionally, most of the components making up a silver-zinc battery can be easily recycled. It is uncertain so far whether this technology will catch on, however, because of the high cost of silver.
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