Power Management

Battery + USB Power

We wanted to make the Feather easy to power both when connected to a computer as well as via battery. There's two ways to power a Feather. You can connect with a MicroUSB cable (just plug into the jack) and the Feather will regulate the 5V USB down to 3.3V. You can also connect a 4.2/3.7V Lithium Polymer (Lipo/Lipoly) or Lithium Ion (LiIon) battery to the JST jack. This will let the Feather run on a rechargable battery. When the USB power is powered, it will automatically switch over to USB for power, as well as start charging the battery (if attached) at 100mA. This happens 'hotswap' style so you can always keep the Lipoly connected as a 'backup' power that will only get used when USB power is lost.

The JST connector polarity is matched to Adafruit LiPoly batteries. Using wrong polarity batteries can destroy your Feather

The above shows the Micro USB jack (left), Lipoly JST jack (top left), as well as the 3.3V regulator and changeover diode (just to the right of the JST jack) and the Lipoly charging circuitry (to the right of the Reset button). There's also a CHG LED, which will light up while the battery is charging. This LED might also flicker if the battery is not connected.

Power supplies

You have a lot of power supply options here! We bring out the BAT pin, which is tied to the lipoly JST connector, as well as USB which is the +5V from USB if connected. We also have the 3V pin which has the output from the 3.3V regulator. We use a 500mA peak AP2112. While you can get 500mA from it, you can't do it continuously from 5V as it will overheat the regulator. It's fine for, say, powering an ESP8266 WiFi chip or XBee radio though, since the current draw is 'spiky' & sporadic.

Measuring Battery

If you're running off of a battery, chances are you wanna know what the voltage is at! That way you can tell when the battery needs recharging. Lipoly batteries are 'maxed out' at 4.2V and stick around 3.7V for much of the battery life, then slowly sink down to 3.2V or so before the protection circuitry cuts it off. By measuring the voltage you can quickly tell when you're heading below 3.7V

To make this easy we stuck a double-100K resistor divider on the BAT pin, and connected it to D9 (a.k.a analog #7 A7). You can read this pin's voltage, then double it, to get the battery voltage.

#define VBATPIN A9
float measuredvbat = analogRead(VBATPIN);
measuredvbat *= 2;    // we divided by 2, so multiply back
measuredvbat *= 3.3;  // Multiply by 3.3V, our reference voltage
measuredvbat /= 1024; // convert to voltage
Serial.print("VBat: " ); Serial.println(measuredvbat);

This voltage will 'float' at 4.2V when no battery is plugged in, due to the lipoly charger output, so its not a good way to detect if a battery is plugged in or not (there is no simple way to detect if a battery is plugged in)

Radio Power Draw

You can select the power output you want via software, more power equals more range but of course, uses more of your battery.

For example, here is the feather 32u4 with RFM9x 900MHz radio set up for +20dBm power, transmitting a data payload of 20 bytes. Transmits take about 130mA for 70ms

The ~13mA quiescent current is the current draw for listening (~2mA) plus ~11mA for the microcontroller. This can be reduce to amost nothing with proper sleep modes and not putting the module in active listen mode!

You can put the module into sleep mode by calling radio.sleep(); which will save you about 2mA

If you want to reduce even more power, use the Adafruit Sleepdog library by installing and adding #include "Adafruit_SleepyDog.h" at the top of your sketch and replace




To put the chip into ultra-low-power mode. Note that USB will disconnect so do this after you have done all your debugging!

During the super sleepy mode you're using only 300uA (0.3mA)!

While its not easy to get the exact numbers for all of what comprise the 300uA there are a few quiescent current items on the Feather 32u4:

  • 2 x 100K resistors for VBAT measurement = 25uA
  • AP2112K 3.3V regulator = 55uA
  • MCP73871 batt charger = up to 100uA even when no battery is connected

The rest is probably the Atmega32u4 peripherals including the brown-out detect and bandgap circuitry, ceramic oscillator, etc. According to the datasheet, with the watchdog and BrownOutDetect enabled, the lowest possible current is ~30uA (at 5V which is what we're testing at)

ENable pin

If you'd like to turn off the 3.3V regulator, you can do that with the EN(able) pin. Simply tie this pin to Ground and it will disable the 3V regulator. The BAT and USB pins will still be powered

Last updated on 2016-04-22 at 10.50.11 PM Published on 2016-04-13 at 04.15.30 PM