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Wednesday, May 14, 2008


This circuit was specifically designed to recharge alkaline cells. The unusual connection of the transistor in each charging unit will cause it to oscillate, on and off, thus transferring the charge accumulated in the capacitor to the cell. The orange LED will blink for around 5 times a second for a 1.37V cell. For a totally discharged cell the blinking is faster but it will decrease until it will come to a stop when the cell is charged. You may leave the cell in the charger as it will trickle charge and keep it at around 1.6V. To set the correct voltage you have to connect a fresh, unused cell and adjust the trimmer until oscillations set in, then go back a little until no oscillation is present and the circuit is ready to operate. You should use only the specified transistors, LED colors, zener voltage and power rating because they will set the final voltage across the cell. A simple 9V charging circuit was also included: it will charge up to around 9.3V and then keep it on a trickle charge: the green LED will be off while charging and will be fully on when the battery is close to its final voltage.
A 2.5VA transformer will easily charge up to 4 cells at the same time although 2 only are shown in the schematic. In order to minimize interference from one circuit to the other they have nothing in common except the transformer and, in order to show a balanced load to the transformer, half of the charging units will use the positive sinewave and the other half the negative sinewave. Make sure to use high beta transistors such as BC337-25 or better BC337-40. Given the dispersion of the transistor parameters it might happen that oscillations do not take place. Use a slightly higher zener voltage: 7.5V instead of 6.8 or a green led in place of the orange ones.
All types of alkaline cells can be recharged: it will take 1 day for a discharged AA cell or 9V battery and up to several days for a large D type cell. The best practice is not to discharge completely the cell or battery but rather to give a short charge every so often although admittedly this is not easy to achieve. Do not attempt to recharge a totally discharged cell or a cell showing even the slightest sign of damage.
I tried successfully to recharge NiMH cells as well. Although the charging profile for these cells is quite different from alkaline cells, the circuit seems to work fine provided you do not leave them in the charger forever, because of the possibility of overcharging especially for the smaller batteries.
The mains transformer must be suited for the voltage available in each country: usually 230Vac or 115Vac.

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