Solartron 1470

Source: Solartron Instruments
Breakthrough in high performance multi-channel battery testing
Breakthrough in high performance multi-channel battery testing

  • First multi-channel battery tester to combine high speed acquisition and high accuracy impedance capability
  • Optimised for NiMH, LPB and PLI battery performance investigations, development and quality assurance

Solartron has extended high-accuracy, single channel battery testing into the fully-integrated multi-channel arena with the launch of the 1470. This compact bench-top unit - the world's first near-laboratory performance eight channel battery test system - provides the high-speed data acquisition, processing and compression essential to developers of power sources for mobile terminals such as GSM, PCN and CDMA phones, laptops and palmtops.

Solartron's 1470 is the first battery test system to integrate high accuracy multi-channel AC impedance testing over a wide frequency range with charge/discharge cycle testing for detailed cell analysis. Experiment set-up, management and data analysis is simplified by Solartron's new Windows-based CellTest software, capable of supporting several different concurrent investigations on a single 1470, significantly enhancing the tester's cost-effectiveness in research, quality assurance and production test departments.

The need to prolong mobile terminal stand-by and use time, plus new power hungry mobile phone facilities such as WAP, integrated modem/fax and large screen displays, are fuelling demands for increasingly efficient battery technologies. At the same time, manufacturers are encroaching on battery compartment space with smart card readers, FM radio receivers, short-range Bluetooth communications and so on, forcing battery manufacturers to develop higher powered product for steadily shrinking spaces. Solartron's 1470 multi-channel battery tester provides researchers and manufacturers with leading-edge instrumentation for qualifying performance and studying cell reactions in emerging technologies such as NiMH (nickel-metal-hydride), LPB (lithium polymer) and plastic lithium ion (PLI) systems.

"For too long now, battery manufacturers and users have been limited to high-performance, low-throughput single-channel laboratory instrumentation or low-performance multi-channel DC systems," notes Dr Andrew Hinton, Marketing Specialist for Laboratory Analytical Products at Solartron. "The 1470 provides the best of all worlds: high accuracy in a multi-channel format with the performance needed to test the portable power sources used in today's most demanding applications. Solartron has drawn on its leadership position in electrochemical impedance spectroscopy to redefine battery, fuel cell and ultra-capacitor testing, and is extending its support for this arena with a fast-track program of on-going product development."

Testing power sources for laptops, palmtops, camcorders and digital radio systems such as GSM and CDMA phones, poses difficult problems for the battery engineer. For example, when a GSM phone transmits data to a base station, the battery is subject to a 218 Hz stream of pulsed loads. Evaluating the performance of several batteries under these conditions - to select/approve a battery manufacturer, prove the performance of a manufactured batch, or confirm acceptance at goods-in - demands high speed data acquisition hardware and software.

Solartron's 1470 supports eight parallel test channels and up to 12 units can be controlled by a single PC, limited only by the data bandwidth of the communications interface. Each channel can be individually programmed to provide constant voltage, current, power or load - with maximum applied levels up to 10V or 4A - using step-less control loops similar to those in Solartron's proven research-grade potentiostats. Dual ADCs capture voltage and current simultaneously at up to 10, 000 samples per second with resolutions down to 3µvolts/1.5 nanoAmps - easily exceeding the requirements of most battery test applications. Uniquely for a battery tester, the 1470 then exploits the power of its ‘digital signal processor per channel' architecture to analyse and compress the measurement stream, eliminating data overload by ensuring only relevant data is transmitted back to the controlling PC for analysis.

AC impedance provides valuable insights into the life cycle of secondary (rechargeable) cells and analysing primary cell structures. Interfacing a frequency response analyser (FRA) such as the Solartron 1255 or de-facto industry-standard 1260 to the 1470 not only allows detailed impedance investigation of the whole cell but also comparative analysis of alternate battery technologies including electrode/separator reactions and mass/charge transfer effects. For the first time, investigators of battery performance can combine high accuracy impedance testing over an exceptional 10µHz to 1MHz frequency range with standard charge/discharge cycling.

All eight channels in the 1470 connect via a conditioning block to an internal multiplexer bus for interfacing to an FRA. In addition to providing electrical isolation, the conditioning block also provides DC rejection on signals output to the FRA and programmable attenuation of low-level AC inputs to the battery. The system architecture supports one FRA per 1470 or - by linking the multiplexer busses together - one FRA across several 1470s, up to a maximum of 12, all under PC software control.

Complete experiment management is significantly simplified with Solartron's new CellTest software, designed specifically for the battery test engineer. CellTest supports multiple projects, each with its own preferences, screen layouts, channel allocations and so forth. Production test engineers will particularly appreciate this compartmentalisation as it maximises equipment utilisation. All active projects permanently acquire data according to their individual schedules and the display can be switched between projects - and between real and historical data - at any time.

Impedance test is fully integrated into test schedules, allowing both AC and DC analysis within the same experiment. The software controls the FRA multiplexing and impedance data acquisition, presenting results in text format or in Bode or complex plane plots. Additionally, the data can be exported to ZView, Solartron's materials analysis package, for further processing, such as equivalent circuit fitting using one of the industry's most advanced complex non-linear least-squares fitting algorithm [LEVM].

Solartron Instruments, 19408 Park Row, Ste 320, Houston, TX 77084. Tel: 800-225-5766; Fax: 610-264-5329.