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Get Energized | Lithium-Ion Batteries and XRF

In the field, lithium-ion batteries are what fuel an XRF. If a team is travelling to a location that is far from available electrical sockets, the days output becomes dependent on the charge of the XRF battery. A low battery can result in a day of low productivity.

Here are five tips on how to maximise the energy supply from lithium-ion batteries and therefore maximise output in the field.

1. Travelling with Lithium Ion (Li Ion) batteries

The first step in any project is getting to the destination. If this involves flying, it is good practice to be aware of restrictions regarding the portable XRFs lithium-ion batteries in an airport setting.

As of 2022, anything under 100-watt hours (Wh) must travel as carry-on baggage in Australia. If you are unsure how to check if a battery meets these requirements, it is possible to calculate the Wh of a lithium-ion battery by multiplying the volts by the ampere hours. For a typical portable XRF battery the voltage is 7.2, with ampere hours of 5.8, this equates to a Wh of 41.76 – well below the 100Wh limit. The batteries included in the portable XRF hire from Portable Spectral Services are typical portable XRF batteries and fall under the 100Wh restriction and consequently must be placed in carry-on baggage. If you are unsure, the battery often states the Lithium-Ion charge (image 1).

Image 1: XRF batteries often state the Wh. For Bruker and Olympus batteries this is seen on the first line of writing on the back of the battery.

Image 2: When travelling, it is recommended to tape over the terminals of the lithium-ion battery.

Airlines will often require exposed battery terminals to be taped over as an added protection (image 2). This isolates the terminals and prevents the battery from unexpectedly short-circuiting and overheating. An alternative to tape is to place the batteries in separate plastic bags or containers.

Additionally, if you are sending an XRF in advance of your travel, as of April 2016 IATA regulations require all lithium-ion batteries to be shipped at less than 30% of maximum charge. Batteries need to be packed in a way that effectively protects against short circuits and overheating. In similar fashion to carry-on regulations, this is achieved by taping the terminals or placing the batteries in separate plastic bags. It is vital to ensure the batteries are not touching conducting surfaces when placed in a pelican case or shipping box.

2. Battery life in the field

An inevitable problem encountered in the field is the heat, which is the biggest influence on battery longevity. When in use, a way to prolong the battery life on an XRF is to turn off additional options that are not being utilised for analysis – such as the camera, GPS, and Wi-Fi.

 

Whilst the heat cannot always be avoided, steps can be taken to mitigate direct exposure to the XRF and its batteries. This includes keeping the loaded XRF pelican case away from direct sunlight as much as possible. Moreover, if it is break time – give the XRF a break too. Remove the battery from the portable XRF and store both the instrument and battery in a shaded, cooler area. Cooler in this regard does not mean wet, placing an XRF or the XRF batteries into an eski or a fridge will lead to more problems and is not recommended. 

Image 3: When going on break, remove the battery from the XRF and store both the battery and XRF in a shaded area.

3. Battery lifespan

Lithium batteries have a use by date regardless of whether they are used or not. Rates of discharge of the battery on storage can vary from 1 to 10% with the biggest influence on this being heat. Ideally batteries should be kept at room temperature at around 20% charge to ensure a lower discharge rate. If a battery is left to fully discharge this can cause damage also, so it is advised that batteries be recharged every six months whilst in storage. Furthermore, for instrument and battery health, it is highly recommended to remove the battery from the instrument when not in use and to store it within the designated compartments of the pelican case.

Image 4: When not in use, store the XRF and batteries separately in the pelican case. The Bruker CTX has a battery compartment in the right corner.

4. Charging and recalibrating batteries

Conventionally, it is recommended for good battery health that batteries should be discharged fully prior to recharging. This is commonly known as the “memory effect”. This is not always the case, as lithium-ion batteries do better at 40-50% depth of discharge. However, it is recommended after around 30 charges to allow complete battery discharge. If a battery has been used for some time and needs a refresh, Portable Spectral Services are able to run a recalibration to bring it back to its full working capacity (image 5). This can be booked in using our online store here: https://www.portaspecs.com/product/battery-calibration-for-bruker-olympus/

Image 5: Portable Spectral Services can recalibrate your XRF batteries.

5. Carry Spares

If in doubt, always carry spares. When you hire from Portable Spectral Services, all portable XRF instruments come with two batteries. If your project involves being away from electrical sockets for extended periods of time, PSS offer additional batteries with hire and purchase.

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