The Raspberry Pi is turning up in all sorts of different projects, but powering it on-the-go can be sometimes be problematic.
Normally, the low-power Linux-running computer board gets its power via a USB power source – usually, a USB phone charger with 5VDC and at least 1A of current.
But if you want portability, you need an alternative. It’s quite normal to power a Raspberry Pi with four AA batteries – in fact, it’s quite easy.
What about with just two AA batteries?
Because the Raspberry Pi is remarkably low-power – it uses around 600mA or so (even less if you go with the new Model A variant). That’s the sort of power level (around 2-3W) that can be supplied by just two AA batteries.
The problem is that two AA cells only give us 3.0V, or just 2.4V if you use NiMH rechargeable cells, which isn’t enough to get the Pi to wake up.
The solution is a tiny little board on eBay called a DC-to-DC Step-Up Converter. You can find them on eBay for under $3 including shipping.
They take two AA cells for input voltage (yes, NiMH cells work beautifully) and churn out 5VDC at up to 1A through a Type A USB socket.
All you need to do is grab a USB cable, plug one end into the converter; the other end into the Raspberry Pi’s microUSB power socket.
For typical operation, you should get around two-to-three hours from a pair of Sanyo 2000mAh Eneloop cells. It’s not a long time but given you can easily charge four AA cells at once with almost any half-decent charger, it won’t be hard to get decent battery life.
Not only that, NiMH cells are also incredibly cheap so it won’t cost a fortune either.
So next time you have an idea for a compact Raspberry Pi project, don’t assume you have to power it with four AA batteries, when two might just do the job nicely.
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