The changes over the years have made technology evolve a lot and nowadays almost everything works on electricity. Therefore, it is almost impossible to imagine the world today, without batteries and their incredible capacity to store electricity.
If it weren’t for batteries, there would be hardly any mobile devices such as cell phones, computers, flashlights, musical devices, digital cameras, etc. In this article, we will pay special attention to the batteries and explain everything about this incredible object.
What are the battery types?
The first important point is to understand that batteries are divided into two classes. The primary class is one that includes disposable batteries, that is, those batteries that can be used only once and after the charge is exhausted, it must be discarded. Batteries in this class are usually made from alkaline chemicals, zinc or lithium. They are relatively cheap batteries but are criticized for not having an environmentally friendly feature.
The secondary class is one that includes batteries that can be recharged. These batteries are made of lead-acid, nickel or lithium-ion and generally tend to be more expensive than the primary ones. Secondary class batteries can be reused countless times, which ends up compensating for their high value, in addition to being classified as environmentally friendly.
This is not the only way of classifying batteries, there is also a classification according to the type of cell and it is divided into 4 main groups, they are:
- Wet cell batteries – they are the oldest batteries in existence! They use a liquid electrolyte to carry the ions. Despite being replaced by dry batteries in most cases, wet cells are still used in car batteries, for example.
- Dry cell batteries – these batteries function similarly to wet cells, with the main difference being the electrolyte solution in a pasty composition. This battery has enough moisture just to carry the necessary charge, that is, there is no chance of leakage when falling, making it much safer than wet ones.
- Melted salt batteries – this technology is used by specialized industries that use overheated salts to the point of reaching the liquid state, such as electrolytes. The density of energy produced in these batteries is as high as the danger of the process to produce it. But it has enormous potential and is generally used in electric vehicles.
- Backup batteries – These are batteries that do not contain electrolytes, that is, they are practically perfect for use in a short time and long-term storage. By separating the electrolytes from the rest of the battery, the cells do not discharge themselves while they are stored.
If there are so many different types of batteries and applications, how is it possible to accurately compare their performance? The answer is quite simple, this comparison is made according to their capacity, which capacity is measured in milliamperes-hour (mAh).
Therefore, the capacity that a battery has is the total energy storage capacity. For ease of understanding, see this example. If a battery has 2,500 mAh, it should offer 2500 mA of power for one hour.
But for this comparison to occur accurately, they must be the same size and composition. Primary alkaline batteries generally have a higher capacity, but they only show significant results when used in devices that use energy gradually, such as children’s toys.
Now, in the case of secondary lithium batteries, the tendency is to have a normally lower capacity, but they perform better than disposable ones when used in devices that require a lot of energy, such as digital cameras.
All about primary batteries
Alkaline batteries are the primary batteries that use zinc and they are the most used in the world. They currently dominate approximately 70% of the primary battery market, but despite the great buying and selling power on the market, alkaline batteries are inferior to non-rechargeable lithium batteries.
These batteries offer almost twice the operating life of alkaline when used in high discharge devices. This is because these batteries have a high capacity and small internal resistance, preventing them from discharging on their own.
How to get the most out of primary batteries?
There are several ways for you to take the last volt out of your primary batteries. The best known is to store them in the refrigerator, since the low temperature of the freezer reduces the chemical reactions that occur in the battery, decreasing the speed of its discharge. Place the batteries in a moisture-proof packaging, this way you will avoid corrosion. Remember to heat them naturally before using them.
Disposable batteries should never be stored at temperatures above 27 ° C, as this will increase the speed of self-discharge, considerably shortening the life of this battery. And under no circumstances should you try to recharge these batteries, because the chances of them exploding are huge.
All about secondary batteries
Secondary batteries have the ability to reverse the flow of electrons in the circuit. As already mentioned, they can be produced in 3 types: lead-acid, nickel, and lithium-ion. Nowadays these batteries are present everywhere, supplying power to cell phones, laptops, cars and etc.
Lead-acid batteries are the least efficient in this group, as they have an incredibly low capacity when looking at their volume and weight. But if the subject is a battery that offers power, this battery is capable of delivering voltages that you won’t find in any other battery.
How to get the most out of your lead-acid battery?
Since these batteries have a hard life, they rarely last more than 5 years. This is because this type of battery suffers corrosion from external parts, mainly at the cable and connector terminals, which are the parts that generally come in contact with the overflowing electrolyte or through the leakage of acid gases.
The lead-acid battery was created with the intention of offering small doses of high energy and not long periods of discharge. You should recharge it when it reaches 70% of capacity, and never leave it below 20%, as the heat generated by the increased internal resistance will damage the battery when it charges.
Nickel batteries are more expensive than lead-acid batteries, they discharge more easily on their own, and they do not perform well on some devices that were specifically designed for alkaline batteries. Despite offering more strength, cadmium is an expensive and ecologically very aggressive material. This is the main reason for replacing nickel batteries with nickel-metal hydride batteries.
Nickel-hydride batteries replace the cadmium anode with one made of an alloy that absorbs hydrogen, in addition to using an alkaline electrolyte, usually potassium hydroxide. These small differences guarantee that nickel-hydride batteries have between 200% and 300% more when compared to simple nickel batteries.
Despite this greater efficiency and being considered cheaper and environmentally friendly, nickel-hydride batteries also discharge themselves easily. Generally, a battery of this type loses 20% of its charge in a stored day. This value can be even higher when exposed to heat.
How to get the most out of nickel batteries?
The correct use of these batteries is the best way to improve their efficiency and maintain their useful life. To leave them with the best possible performance, the main tip is to charge them at variable frequencies, for that you must buy a charger compatible with this type of battery, this charger comes with the automatic shutdown function as soon as the battery becomes very hot.
Lithium-ion batteries are present in the laptop or tablet, and they use a simple carbon anode and a mixture of electrolytes that is highly conducive to ethylene carbonate. These batteries differ from non-rechargeable batteries in that they have the ability to reverse their chemical reactions.
These batteries offer numerous advantages when compared to nickel-based cells. The first advantage is the size, the lithium cells are much smaller and much lighter, in addition to having a much higher energy density. These batteries were designed to operate within a much larger temperature range, making them ideal batteries for high-tech mobile devices that have a high energy consumption.
How to get the most out of the lithium-ion battery?
When used in ideal conditions of use, this battery lasts between 3 and 5 years until its internal resistance is high enough to render its cells useless. Generally, this natural effect of aging is linked not only to the number of charge cycles but also to the ambient temperature.
To avoid this reduction in the service life, keep your battery cool and fully charged. Leaving the battery discharged will damage lithium ions. Leaving the battery in a hot environment for long periods will cause the cells to oxidize more easily, considerably reducing its useful life.
The future of batteries
With the constant technological evolution and the increasing need to store energy, several studies and tests are being carried out in the best laboratories in the field worldwide. The race to find the ideal battery, which offers a high storage capacity and a small self-discharge rate, is perhaps the biggest goal of companies in the industry.
We hope you enjoyed getting to know the batteries better, their specifics, and evolution. I noticed that knowing the device you are going to use and the battery best suited for it, will make you have a much greater advantage of energy, and consequently financial savings.