Measuring Lithium battery voltage with nRF52

Here is an example of a hardware setup to measure the voltage on a Lithium battery with a voltage divider on nRF52. The Lithium battery typically has a voltage range of 2.7 - 4.2 V and we (Nordic) recommend that you divide the battery voltage with two resistors and possibly a capacitor (more on that later)

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To reduce the leakage current through the voltage divider to the minimum, we want the total resistance to be as high as possible. Therefore, we choose R1 to be 800 KΩ. This is the maximum source resistance we can have if we use an acquisition time of 40 us, see here.

We also want R2 to be large. R2 should be chosen such that the input voltage does not exceed Vdd when the battery is full (4.2 V). In this example Vdd is 3.3 V, so we choose R2 to be 2 MΩ which will give 3 V at AIN when battery is 4.2 V. With a gain of 1/5 we can use the internal reference at 0.6 V.

The leakage current with this configuration will be:

4.2 V / 2.8 MΩ = 1.5 uA

If you are using lower Vdd, R2 will have to be smaller and the leakage current will increase.

Usable ADC resolution

If we assume that the voltage range of the Lithium battery is 2.7 V - 4.2 V, i.e. 2.7 V when empty and 4.2 V when fully charged, then the voltage range on the ADC AIN input pin is:

  • Maximum voltage: 4.2 V * (2 M/(0.8 M+2 M)) = 3 V
  • Minimum voltage: 2.7 V * (2 M/(0.8 M+2 M)) = 1.93 V
  • ADC value at 4.2 V – 12 bit setup: 3 V * (1/5) / 0.6 V * 4095 = 4095
  • ADC value at 2.7 V - 12 bit setup: 1.93 V * (1/5) / 0.6 V * 4095 = 2634
  • Usable ADC resolution - 12 bit setup: 4095 - 2634 = 1461

Using capacitor

Using a capacitor has several advantages over a pure resistive divider. The input will be more resistant to noise, you can use higher values on the voltage divider which will lead to less leakage current and you can set down the acquisition time.

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Choosing the capacitor value

At the start of the sampling (when TACQ switch closes) there will be a voltage drop. The capacitor value should be high enough such that this voltage drop is small. The SAADC voltage the moment the sampling starts is about:

Vsaadc = Vain * (Cext – Csample) / Cext

We can say that we want the voltage drop to be equal to the voltage corresponding to 1LSB. If we use 12 bit resolution Cext can be calculated like this:

Vsaadc / Vain = 1 – 1 / 2^12
1 - 1 / 2^12 = (Cext – Csample) / Cext
Cext - 2^-12 * Cext = Cext - Csample
Cext = Csample * 2^12

If we say that Csample is 2.5pF (maximum according to Product Specification), then Cext will be:

Cext = 2.5 pF * 2^12 ~= 10nF

With this large external capacitor, we can also set down the acquisition time since the sampling capacitor (Csample) takes less time to charge up. Acquisition time can be set to the minimum, 3us. This will in addition reduce the current consumption as the SAADC spends less time sampling.

Choosing the sampling frequency

Over time the SAADC input can be seen as a resistor with the value 1/(f*C). The sampling frequency should be chosen such that the saadc input impedance is much larger than the resistor values in the voltage divider. The saadc input impedance is:

Rinput = 1 / (fsample * Csample)

If we choose a sampling frequency of say 1 second, the input impendance will be:

Rinput = 1 / (1 * 2.5*10^-12) = 400GOhm


Based on these calculations we can for example use these values: R1 = 4MOhm, R2 = 10MOhm, Cext = 10nF. Then the leakage current will maximum be:

4.2V / (10MOhm + 4MOhm) = 300nA
  • Hi Ole Bauck,

    As mentioned in datasheet input impedance of the ADC pin is >1M ohm.

    It means if we use a voltage divider circuit then the impedance of voltage divider should not exceed the input impedance of the ADC pin. please correct me if I'm wrong.

    Does higher value of external impedance at ADC pin affect the performance?

    If I'm selecting this value  R1 = 4MOhm, R2 = 10MOhm, Cext = 10nF, it is fine for >1M ohm impedance?

     Thank you


  • ...coninue question

    I have 2 questions about this feature

    1. Is it working now?
       I read errata notification (#160) that "VDDHDIV5 is not functional".

    2. Why to divide by 5?
       We can't use internal reference with this divisor because of 4.2V / 5 = 840mV
       840 mV exceeds internal reference 600 mv, that means over-saturation.
       If we will use USB power supply (VBUS max = 5.5V), it become even worse (1100 mV)

  • What can you say about using new feature on nRF52840 chip -
    check battery voltage on input SAADC_CH_PSELP_PSELP_VDDHDIV5?

  • Hello Ole,

    Thank you for your great work!

    I still have one question about the capacitor part, how do you calculate the new resistor value of 4MOhm for R1?
    According to the documentation, with a 3us acquisition time, the source resistor has to be 10KOhm.

    Thank you for your answer

  • Hi, 

    I noticed this example from a while back and am trying to reproduce the example but with nrf52840 and sdk 15.2.0. Is there any way to use this technique with the examples/peripheral/saadc example provided in the sdk? Is the same thing possible in the examples/ble_peripheral/ble_app_template? If so, could you please provide some insight on how to do this, specifically using nrf log to output the battery level to terminal/debug terminal?