Arduino Rechargeable Battery Options: How to Power an Arduino

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With your latest project up and running on an Arduino, you may be looking for a way to customize or improve your build. One exciting possibility is to make your project portable. Instead of USB power, you’ll need to source the right battery. Unfortunately, this can be a frustrating task. Finding the right 5V rechargeable battery that plugs in and works with Arduino boards can be harder than you’d imagine. Fortunately, we’re here to walk you through several portable power options, ranging from all-in-one units like the Adafruit Powerboost to individual boards that you can link together as needed.

How to Power an Arduino with a Battery

The popular Arduino boards (and other official and derivative options) feature power connections, but they don’t come equipped with another method for receiving power from 3.7V LiPo batteries. The good news is that most of the new MKR series of boards do include this functionality, including the:

- MKR Zero

-MKR WIFI 1010

-MKR VIDOR 4000

Arduino specs call for a minimum battery capacity of 700 mAh, but there’s one exception. In limited testing, a 105mAh cell could power the MKR ZERO. You’ll need to research the requirements for your application to be sure this pairing would be successful.

Another option comes in the form of the Feather board series from Adafruit. These boards have built-in support for LiPo batteries through the same type of JST connector as the MKR series. Like the MKR boards, Feather boards can accommodate charging through built-in micro-USB ports.

Importantly, the JST connector we mentioned here is a JST PH 2.0 2-pin connector. Adafruit stocks batteries paired with the proper leads and connectors (as well as leads and connectors by themselves) for their boards, which also conveniently match up with Arduino MKR series devices.

There are a variety of other ready-made options on the market as well as kits for assembling your own. Whichever configuration you choose, be sure you’re getting exactly the right connector for your application and devices. Specifically, be sure which the red-white/positive-negative wire orientation you require, as color coding can be inconsistent across products. Many types of similar connectors won’t work interchangeably, so pay careful attention to the connector spacing as well as shape. For example, the spacing for Adafruit and MKR boards is 2.0mm from center to center of each connector.

Arduino Power Supply

If you need a power source to integrate into an existing project or board, Adafruit’s PowerBoost 500C and 1000C are excellent options. Here are a few features of the Adafruit PowerBoost 500C and 1000C:

- Charger circuit and boost converter. Both feature a built-in LiPo battery charger circuit, along with a boost converter that outputs 5.2 volts instead of the USB standard 5.0 volts. These components give your projects a bit of extra ‘room’ to accommodate long cables and other accessories.

- Output. The 500C model is meant for 500mA output, while the 1000C is meant for 1000mA.

- Indicators. Both have charge rate resistors for iOS devices, along with low battery indicators.

- Price. One thing to consider is that the cost of each is relatively high, though commensurate with its excellent set of features. Depending on your budget, an all-in-one solution may be a better option.

Another contender you shouldn’t rule out is the so-called “lipstick charger.” These chargers integrate a Lithium Ion 18650 cell with a charger and boost converter. This setup allows it to safely charge your device via a micro-USB connection, then output a nice USB-friendly 5VDC. You can integrate this into your Arduino project using the standard USB connector that comes along with the cylindrical package.

Combine Power Boards for Unique Solution

If the previous options don’t fit your needs or if you want to save a bit of money, you can put together a combination charging and power solution with a charger board, and, if needed, a boost converter. The boards in the image above are based on the TP4056 battery charger chip, which takes in input between .3V and 8VDC, and charges the battery to 4.2V, avoiding damage to these nominally 3.7V cells.

The boards feature micro-USB connectors that allow you to plug in straight from a USB source as well as solder pads for IN+ and IN- if you prefer to make your own connections. On the other end of the board, TE106 models feature + and – outputs for your battery that are shared with the output to whatever you’re powering. Newer TE420 boards feature both B+ and B- pads that go to your battery, as well as OUT+ and OUT- pads meant to connect to whatever you’re charging. This setup allows the board some protection against over-discharge as well as the ability to regulate the charging, making it an excellent all-inclusive solution if a ~3.7V power supply is enough for your application.

If your application calls for 5V, you’ll need to add a separate component called a boost converter. You can find these in a ready-made 5V format, often with a ready-made USB-A connector. Variable boost converters are also available, which allow you to adjust the output voltage well over 5V.

Full Customization: PCB Design

Powering your Arduino project isn’t always as easy or straightforward as simply plugging something in, but you have many solid options at a variety of price points and levels of customization. If you want to take things to a higher level, consider integrating a boost converter or a battery charger into your own custom board to save space and money.

 

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