Connect with us

Tech

Why Does my Phone Battery die so Fast?

It’s the question everyone wonders about… unless you just bought a new phone, like, yesterday.

The Conversation

Published

on

File 20180718 142428 m8rlfk.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

Already out of charge – again?! (Image: fizkes/Shutterstock.com)

Steve W. Martin, Iowa State University

Why do batteries die? And, why can they only be recharged so many times before they won’t hold a useful amount of charge? My young son asked me about that years ago when his battery-powered toy car stopped moving, wondering about what he called an “everlasting battery.” And this same question has probably crossed the mind of every cellphone user trying to send one last text before the screen blinks off.

Research, like mine, continues around the world to make batteries that charge faster, last longer, and can be recharged and discharged many more times than today’s. But as much as you and I would like, it’s impossible to make a truly everlasting battery. I have taught thermodynamics for more than 30 years. So far, there is nothing that suggests we can break the fundamental laws of science to get that elusive battery.

Battery scientists and engineers call the main problem “capacity fade.” Regular people wonder about it with questions like “Why won’t my battery hold a charge?” and complaints like “I just recharged this thing and it’s already out again!”

It’s a result of the second law of thermodynamics, which states that whenever some real process happens, it creates a certain amount of wasted energy along the way that can never be recovered. Any time a battery is charged or discharged, there’s a little bit of wasted energy – a little bit of wasted capacity in the battery that cannot be recovered.

To envision how this works, think about battery use like transferring water between two cups. Using a battery is like emptying the water from one cup into the other, and charging the battery involves pouring the water back into the first cup. Even if you do it one or two times without spilling a drop, there’s always just a little tiny bit left in each cup that you can’t pour out.

There’s always at least a little left over.

Now imagine pouring back and forth hundreds or even thousands of times over a period of two or three years (for a cellphone battery) or 10 to 20 years (for an electric car). Over time, all the thousands of little and big things that go wrong add up to quite a bit of water going missing. Even spilling a barely visible drop – say one-tenth of a milliliter – adds up to an entire liter if it happens 10,000 times. That doesn’t even include the possibility of one cup failing in some way that loses even more water – like springing a leak or heating up and causing evaporation.

Just as water inevitably goes missing when pouring from one cup to another, more energy is required to charge the battery than it actually stores, and less energy comes out than is stored in it. The proportion of wasted energy to stored energy grows over time.

The ConversationIn fact, the more you use a battery, the more energy gets wasted, and the sooner the battery will reach a point where it’s dead and can’t usefully be recharged. I and others are studying ways to have those discharging-recharging cycles run more smoothly to reduce the amount of waste, but the second law of thermodynamics will always make sure that there’s no way to get rid of it entirely.

Steve W. Martin, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Iowa State University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Are you looking for digital journalism training and experience? Are you a journalism major who wants to take your career to the next level? CMN’s Digital Journalism course gives you real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to journalism influencers and mentors, and a great place to display your work. You can get academic credit too. Check out the Digital Journalism Course here.

Sign up for the Morning Scoop

and wake up with us each day.

CMN Reports

Government1 week ago

Speaker Pelosi Endorsed Lowering the Voting Age to 16 years Old

The kids maybe alright to vote.

by , The Catholic American University
National News1 week ago

Here’s What We Know So Far About Operation Varsity Blues

A summary and the latest updates about the largest college admissions scandal to hit the country.

by , George Washington University
Government1 week ago

The Department of Health and Human Services Received Complaints of Alleged Sexual Abuse Against Foreign National Minors

Migrant children may be at risk on the ground and overseas.

by , The Catholic American University
Government1 week ago

California Governor Gavin Newsom Suspends Death Penalty Statewide

The Golden State is on the verge of ending the death penalty.

by , The Catholic American University
Government1 week ago

Top Congressional Republicans Decry Progressive Policies as Socialist

A Third Red Scare in Washington?

by , The Catholic American University
Government1 week ago

North Dakota State University Football Player Wears Socialist Pin at the Trump White House

The Reds infiltrate the White House.

by , The Catholic American University
National News2 weeks ago

Ethiopian Airlines Jet Crashes, No Survivors on Boeing 737

This is the second flight, in five months involving a Boeing 737.

by , CMN Senior Correspondent
Government2 weeks ago

Progressives, Socialists, Make Gains in Local Elections in NYC and Chicago

The left is on the rise in big cities.

by , The Catholic American University

Top Reads