Is It Okay to Charge Your Phone Overnight or to Charge 100% ?

Before concluding why you should not charge your phone overnight, lets see the Overview of the Li-ion battery as it is used in most of the phones or in electronic gadgets

From laptops and cell phones to hybrids and electric cars, lithium-ion batteries continue powering the lives of billions of people every day. This is because such batteries;

  • Are often times light weight; thus convenient and portable
  • Have high energy density and,
  • If properly handled, are rechargeable over a long period of time.

Because of their ability to be recharged over and over again, these batteries can be cost effective especially since they can still be useful for an extended period of time without being replaced.

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While the physical size, appearance, and energy output may vary from an individual battery to another, their design and operating principle is more less the same. A typical lithium-ion battery has standard features as shown in the diagram below:

Figure 1 : The generic architecture of a lithium-ion battery

How the battery works

Generally speaking, batteries provide electrical energy as a result of specific chemical reactions from inside. These can either be reversible or irreversible. Dry cells provide electrical energy from irreversible chemical reactions inside the cells. Such cells use a powder like mixture of Manganese (IV) dioxide which, upon reacting and giving out energy, cannot reclaim its original chemical properties. That is why, these batteries are not rechargeable.

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On the other hand, Lithium-ion batteries provide electrical energy as a result of a reversible chemical reaction. To enable this, instead of using dry powder crystals like the dry cells, they use different liquid electrolytes. Other than this electrolyte, the Lithium-ion battery, just like other types of batteries is also made up of electrodes and two current collectors as well as the dielectric separator. The current collectors are a cathode (negatively charged) and anode (positively charged).

These current collectors contain lithium. For the electrical energy to flow, the positively charged lithium-ions start moving from one electrode to other and the direction of flow of these lithium ions through the electrolyte is reversible depending on whether the battery is charging or powering up a device.

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How the battery gets charged and discharged

When the battery is discharging, it is also powering up the device. For this to happen, the anode releases lithium ions which flow through the electrolyte and then the device all the way to the cathode. When the battery is charging, the input from the electrical plug helps contribute the negative charges on the cathode. This highly concentrated negative charge creates electrical pressure also called the potential difference between the cathode and anode. Because of this high potential difference, electrons are strongly attracted to the positively charged anode. They start flowing through the electrolyte as charged ions to accumulate at the anode. The more the accumulation of these charged particles at the anode, the more the percentage charge of the battery. This happens until the battery if fully charged or the adapter is unplugged.

 Why overcharging your device could be dangerous

Ironically, even though most people prefer having their batteries charged up to 100 %, such an approach is not advisable unless of course one plans to start shopping for a new battery soon. In short, charging the battery to 100% cumulatively shortens its lifespan. And here is why:

By overcharging, you over accumulate cations (negative ions) on the positive electrode which do not change in nature and charge. Instead, this electrode which is made of copper atoms starts losing the copper electrons. These lost copper electrons become oxidized to copper 2+ ions whose accumulation causes a corrosive effect over time resulting into the gradual dissolution of the positive electrode and the battery lifespan would over at this time.

is it okay to charge your phone overnight ?

Its not okay to charge any electronic gadget overnight. You should avoid that. Overcharging a battery also causes excessive gassing where the electrolyte gets hot and both hydrogen and oxygen gases are generated. If the battery is not properly ventilated, this overcharging could easily result in the bursting/explosion of the battery. Usually, gassing starts before full charge is reached and increases as charging progresses.

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The casing of the battery also has the tendency to become hot to the touch, and begin to melt or swell before eventually bursting. The figure below summarizes what happens during the charging process.

Figure 2: How over charging causes the loss of electrons from the positive electrode to form copper 2+ ions and in the process invite the entire positive electrode to dissolve more rapidly.

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