With the improvements in the tech field of LED flashlights, lithium-ion batteries have become more familiar. So, back to answering our main question, what is an imr battery?
First off, IMR is simply a product code. IMR is the term for Lithium-ion Manganese Rechargeable, or Li-MN (lithium manganese). Without endeavoring to translate a scientific definition, an IMR battery utilizes a different form of oxide for his chemical makeup. In this case, it's Manganese Oxide, rather than Cobalt Oxide, (lithium cobalt or LiCO) which is often what the largest percentage of our lithium-based cells are comprised of.
When searching for Lithium-ion batteries as a power source, it's quite often those high mAh figures that lure us in. In the case of IMR, those figures are generally cut by 50%, due to the fact that capacities of Li-MN cannot reach everything that lithium cobalt is capable of. This however does not diminish the potential of the IMR battery to work just as well as the cobalt cell.
Imr batteries are produced in most of the popular lithium varieties; 16340, 14500 & 18650. Similar to a 16340, is an IMR 18350. I own a few of these myself. A 18350 is a difficult fit for most flashlights mainly because of its thicker size. The width is 18mm, whereas the girth of a 16340 (or CR123 primary) is normally 16.5mm. The majority of the time, an IMR battery will NOT have a protection circuit, although some manufacturers do install them in their IMR cells. It's in fact due to their non-protection that make IMR's well liked. As mentioned earlier, they don't have the capacity of a cobalt-based cell. But their internal resistance remains low historically. This is exactly what defines an IMR battery as "safer" than a LiCO (cobalt) cell. The IMR cell will be able to charge faster, and has a higher discharge rate, making it more beneficial for technologies needing a higher voltage to operate.
The 'big' word of warning concerning the use of unprotected cells from flashlight experts, is always centered around recharging and discharging. Therefore if an imr battery is regularly used in your favorite light, you are required to keep close track of its discharge, and be careful not to drain it below 3.0 volts. Because in contrast to a protected LiCO cell, (or unless of course your light features a protection circuit) the battery will not shut the flashlight off before the voltage dips into the danger zone! If it does on a continuous basis, it could be damaged, ultimately causing a failure to re-charge, or worse, if a charging is attempted. At the same time, charging also needs to be kept an eye on, since they should never recharge above 4.2 volts. The vast majority of smart chargers will terminate at or slightly under 4.2 then again accidents (and failures) can occur.
To summarize: An IMR battery will;
- charge more rapidly.
- discharge at a greater current.
- be less dangerous (no risk of a protection circuit failure.
At the same time they'll also have less capacity than a LiCO cell.
As always, be smart, do your research and purchase what meets your needs.
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