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New DataCell battery voltage and state of charge software from Merlin Equipment

Engineers involved with back-up power installations in the renewable energy, railways, telecoms, highways and medical sectors will be familiar with a heavy dependence on battery power. Lead-acid batteries are also relied upon daily in numerous special vehicle applications and for materials handling equipment such as fork lifts and access platforms. As a result, an ability to be able to accurately monitor their state of charge is critical, so users can be warned of impending flat batteries and ultimately reduce their battery replacement spend as well as ensure equipment operates reliably.

Until now, the common method of providing battery data for use with PC displays or for telemetry systems was to fit a battery monitor, complete with current measurement shunt and an RS232 data converter.

The new DataCell from Merlin Equipment changes this. DataCell uses unique technology to analyse the battery and determine actual capacity remaining without the need of a shunt (greatly reducing installation time and complexity – just a positive and negative connection is needed). The unit then continuously outputs battery voltage and state of charge (SoC) information via a standard RS232 output – which can be interpreted remotely by any windows based PC running Merlin software.

As well as reducing installation time dramatically and the obvious cost savings of not needing a battery monitor display & RS232 converter, DataCell provides a massive improvement in long term accuracy compared to conventional shunt based battery monitors. All shunt based units count ampere hours to determine capacity remaining but due to inherent inaccuracies, they require regular manual synchronisation. As Data-Cell does not have a shunt (and the inherent inaccuracy of counting amp hours), it never runs out of synchronisation. This makes it much more attractive for applications where regular maintenance is not possible (such as in many telemetry based installations), or for use by untrained operators.

Merlin’s DataCell software provides a wealth of important battery data including voltage and remaining capacity. Low voltage and capacity alarms can also be set. For each active bank, it displays a moving ‘heart monitor style graph’ where voltage and SoC% can be viewed over time to provide trend information. The software also provides a long term data-logging facility where results can be outputted to a .csv (Excel) file for analysis.

At Data-Cell’s heart are a number of proprietary computer models and an innovative algorithm written by Merlin R&D engineers for different specific commercial lead-acid cyclic battery technologies. This work was undertaken during 2002-2004 to produce a commercial battery monitor. During early 2005 military applications emerged providing opportunities for the company to work with prime contractors wishing to ‘imbed’ the technology in bespoke systems.

Merlin say this experience now presents a huge opportunity for the commercial sector, where other companies may wish to simply take DataCell data and interpret it directly to display/use on their own systems, rather than use Merlin software.

Designed for either 12V or 24V systems, DataCell can be purchased in either single bank format or for monitoring two, three or four banks simultaneously. Each battery bank can consist of either a single mono-block or several batteries in series / parallel configuration. Starting at just £110, DataCell is also a lower cost alternative to conventional battery monitoring technologies.

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