Power up your robot projects

Selecting the right energy source is crucial, and we've got you covered. Join us as we dive into batteries, solar power, level shifters, and more! Boost your robot's performance and efficiency with our comprehensive guide on power sources and techniques.

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19 March 2023 by Kevin McAleer | Share this article on


Ready to power up your robot projects like never before?

Selecting the right energy source is crucial, and we’ve got you covered. Join us as we dive into batteries, solar power, level shifters, and more! Boost your robot’s performance and efficiency with our comprehensive guide on power sources and techniques.

Hey there, robotics enthusiasts! We’re going to dive into one of the most crucial aspects of any robot project: choosing the right power source.

We’ve got a ton of options at our disposal, including batteries, buck converters, solar power, wireless charging, level shifters, and even low power strategies to maximize the efficiency of our robots.

Our objective for this video is to provide you with a comprehensive guide on these power sources and techniques, so you can make the best decision for your robot projects.

So, without further ado, let’s dive straight in and power up our robot projects!


Ah, alkaline batteries! Let’s talk about these classic energy sources for a moment. Alkaline batteries are made up of zinc and manganese dioxide, and they come in various sizes like AA, AAA, C, and D. They’re widely used because they’re cheap, readily available, and easy to replace.

Some of the advantages of alkaline batteries include their low cost, convenience, and the fact that they’re disposable. You can find them almost anywhere, from local stores to online retailers.

However, there are some downsides to using alkaline batteries in robot projects. Their energy capacity isn’t as high as some other battery types, and their voltage output decreases as they discharge. This can lead to performance issues in robots that require a stable voltage. Plus, they’re not the most environmentally friendly option due to their disposable nature.

Now, let’s explore some other energy sources that might be better suited for our robot projects.


Now, let’s take a look at Nickel-Metal Hydride, or NiMH, batteries. These rechargeable batteries are composed of a nickel hydroxide cathode and a metal hydride anode. They come in the same sizes as alkaline batteries, but they offer some unique advantages for robot projects.

NiMH batteries have a higher energy capacity compared to alkaline batteries, which means they can power our robots for longer periods. They’re also rechargeable, making them more cost-effective and environmentally friendly in the long run. Their voltage remains more stable during discharge, providing a consistent performance for our robots.

However, NiMH batteries do have some drawbacks. They’re more expensive upfront than alkaline batteries, and they suffer from self-discharge, losing their charge when not in use. Additionally, they’re a bit heavier than alkaline batteries, which could be a concern for weight-sensitive robot projects.

With NiMH batteries in mind, let’s continue exploring more energy sources and see which one fits our robot projects best!


Now, let’s discuss Lithium Polymer, or LiPo, batteries. These batteries have become increasingly popular in the world of robotics due to their unique characteristics.

LiPo batteries offer several advantages. They’re lightweight and have a high energy density, which means they can pack a lot of power in a small package. They also have a low self-discharge rate, so they hold their charge longer when not in use. And, they can deliver high current, making them ideal for power-hungry robot projects.

However, there are some important drawbacks and safety concerns to consider. LiPo batteries can be more expensive than other battery types, and they require special care. Overcharging, puncturing, or exposing them to high temperatures can cause them to become unstable and potentially catch fire.

When using LiPo batteries, always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and use a proper charger. Store them in a fire-resistant container, and avoid over-discharging them. By taking these precautions, you can enjoy the benefits of LiPo batteries while keeping your robot projects safe.


Next up, we have Lithium Iron Phosphate, or LiFePO4 batteries.

These rechargeable batteries are gaining popularity in the robotics community for their remarkable advantages over other types.

LiFePO4 batteries boast a longer lifespan than most other batteries, which means they can be recharged more times before losing their capacity.

They’re also more stable and safer than LiPo batteries, with a lower risk of thermal runaway or fire. Additionally, they offer a consistent discharge voltage, providing reliable performance for your robot projects.

So, what types of robot projects can benefit from LiFePO4 batteries? Well, their high energy density, long cycle life, and safety features make them an excellent choice for robots that require constant power, operate for extended periods, or have strict safety requirements.


Let’s now discuss buck converters and their importance in robot projects. Buck converters are DC-DC power converters that step down voltage from a higher input voltage to a lower output voltage, while increasing the output current.

They’re incredibly useful in robot projects where you need to provide a specific voltage to a component, and your power source has a higher voltage than required. By using a buck converter, you can efficiently convert the higher voltage to the desired lower voltage.

When selecting a buck converter, consider factors like input and output voltage range, output current, and efficiency. Ensure the converter can handle the voltage and current requirements of your project and has an efficiency rating that meets your needs.

Efficiency is crucial in buck converters, as higher efficiency means less wasted energy and less heat generated. But, even with high efficiency, some heat is inevitable. So, it’s essential to provide proper heat dissipation, such as using heat sinks, to prevent overheating and maintain the converter’s performance.


Now, let’s explore solar power as an alternative energy source for robot projects. Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity, providing a clean and renewable power source for your robots.

There are various types of solar panels to choose from, such as monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film panels. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages in terms of efficiency, cost, and flexibility. Consider your robot’s power requirements, operating environment, and budget when selecting the right solar panel.

For solar-powered robots, effective energy storage and management are critical. Since solar panels only generate power during daylight hours, you need a way to store the generated energy for continuous operation. ) Solutions like supercapacitors and battery banks can help store and manage the energy generated by solar panels. Supercapacitors offer rapid charging and discharging capabilities, while battery banks provide higher energy density and longer discharge times. Your choice will depend on your robot’s specific needs and performance goals.


Let’s move on to level shifters and their role in robot projects. Level shifters are electronic devices that translate voltage levels between components operating at different voltages. They’re essential when you need to interface components, like microcontrollers and sensors, that use different voltage levels to communicate.

There are several types of level shifters, including voltage dividers, dedicated ICs, and bidirectional level shifters. Voltage dividers use resistors to scale down voltage levels, while dedicated ICs are specifically designed to convert voltage levels in a more efficient manner.

Bidirectional level shifters, on the other hand, can convert voltage levels in both directions, making them versatile and useful for various applications.

When selecting the right level shifter, consider factors like the input and output voltage levels, signal direction, speed, and power consumption.

It’s crucial to choose a level shifter that can handle the voltage range and speed requirements of your robot project while keeping power consumption to a minimum.

low power strategies

Lastly, let’s delve into low power strategies and their importance in robot projects. Implementing low power strategies can significantly extend your robot’s battery life and optimize its overall performance.

There are several approaches you can take to minimize power consumption in your robot projects. These include using energy-efficient components, implementing sleep modes, and optimizing software algorithms.

By choosing energy-efficient components, like low-power microcontrollers and sensors, you can reduce the overall power consumption of your robot. Implementing sleep modes allows your robot to enter a low-power state when it’s idle or not performing critical tasks. And finally, optimizing software algorithms can help your robot run more efficiently, reducing both processing time and power usage.

It’s essential to consider these low power strategies from the initial stages of your robot project. By incorporating energy-saving techniques from the start, you can create a more efficient and longer-lasting robot that meets your performance goals.

And that concludes our comprehensive guide on power sources and techniques for your robot projects. With this knowledge, you’re now better equipped to make informed decisions about powering your robots and optimizing their performance. Good luck, and happy building!

Calculating load in robot projects

Before we wrap up, let’s touch on an essential skill for designing efficient robots: calculating load in milliamp-hours (mAh). Understanding the power demands of your robot will help you choose the right power source and optimize energy usage.

To calculate the load of your robot in milliamp-hours, you’ll need to consider the current requirements of all its components, such as motors, sensors, microcontrollers, and actuators. You’ll also need to account for the duration of their operation.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to calculating load in milliamp-hours.

  1. List all components and their respective current requirements, typically measured in milliamps (mA).
  2. Determine the operating time for each component during a typical usage cycle of your robot.
  3. Multiply the current requirements of each component by their respective operating time to find their individual load in milliamp-hours.
  4. Add up the load values of all components to obtain the total load in milliamp-hours for your robot.
  5. Factor in the efficiency of any power conversion components, like buck converters or level shifters, to account for power loss during conversion.
  6. Finally, add a safety margin to your total load in milliamp-hours to account for unexpected power demands or inefficiencies.

By calculating the load of your robot in milliamp-hours, you can make informed decisions about power sources, manage energy consumption more effectively, and ultimately create a more efficient and reliable robot.

Additional factors to consider when powering robots

Hold on! Let’s quickly cover some extra factors that can make or break your robot’s performance. Keep these in mind as you design your power management system.

Make sure to check battery connectors for compatibility and durability. Don’t forget about size and weight - they impact your robot’s mobility and balance.

Consider battery runtime and charging capabilities. How long does your robot need to run? How fast can the battery charge? Does it require a dedicated charger or can it charge in-circuit?

Voltage conversion is crucial! You may need extra boards, like buck converters or level shifters, to match your system’s requirements.

Lastly, prioritize safety features and ease of integration, maintenance, and replacement. These aspects will ensure the reliable operation and longevity of your robot.

As we wrap up, let’s recap the importance of selecting the right power source and technique for your robot projects. We’ve covered a wide range of options, including various types of batteries, buck converters, solar power, level shifters, and low power strategies.

Remember, the power source and energy management techniques you choose can significantly impact your robot’s performance, efficiency, and reliability. It’s essential to consider the specific requirements of your project and explore different options to optimize power consumption.

I encourage you to keep experimenting with various power sources, conversion techniques, and energy-saving strategies. With the knowledge you’ve gained from this guide, you’re now better equipped to make informed decisions and create impressive, efficient, and high-performing robots.

Good luck with your robot projects, and remember: never stop learning, experimenting, and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. Until next time!

Kevin McAleer

I build robots, bring them to life with code, and have a whole load of fun along the way

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