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Sep 29 2019

Battery Basic: Types of Electric Battery


Batteries have been widely used in life, from electric toys, dry batteries for remote control, car batteries, laptops batteries, and so on. Batteries also have been used in many other fields, such as electric tools, electric vehicles and bicycles, aerospace, solar and wind power generation and energy storage.

Batteries have many different types, which can be divided into the chemical cell, the physical battery and the biological battery according to the battery energy generations.

The following types belong to the chemical batteries:

Depending on whether the battery can be reused, it can be divided into primary battery and secondary battery:

1) The primary battery can be discharged once only, and the secondary battery can be used repeatedly and recharged.

2) The electrode volume and structure of the secondary battery change inversely during discharge, so these changes must be adjusted in the design, while the interior of the primary battery is much simpler because it does not need to adjust these reversible changes.

3) The mass specific capacity and volume specific capacity of the primary battery are larger than those of the general rechargeable battery, but the internal resistance (0.2 ≤ 0.5 Ω) is much larger than that of the secondary battery, so the load capacity is lower.

4) The self-discharge of the primary battery is smaller than the secondary battery.

The common primary battery is a zinc-manganese dry battery, which has a low cost and is not reusable.

Common secondary batteries include nickel-hydrogen batteries commonly used in electronic watches and lead-acid batteries commonly used in automotive batteries, as well as lithium-ion batteries commonly used in electric tools and electric aircraft, as well as in electric vehicles and bicycles.

Specific Types

There are many kinds of batteries, and the common batteries are dry batteries, storage batteries, and micro-batteries. In addition, there are also metal-air cells, fuel cells, and other energy conversion batteries, such as solar cells, thermoelectric cells, nuclear batteries, and so on.


  • Dry batteries

One commonly used is carbon-zinc dry battery. The negative electrode is a cylinder made of zinc, containing ammonium chloride, a small amount of mixed zinc chloride, inert packing and water as electrolyte, and the positive electrode is a carbon rod wrapped in a paste electrolyte mixed with manganese dioxide. The electrode reaction is that the zinc atom at the negative electrode releases electrons transforming into zinc ion (Zn), and the ammonium ion (NH) at the positive electrode obtains electrons converting into ammonia and hydrogen. The manganese dioxide is used to remove hydrogen to eliminate polarization, and the EMF(electromotive force) is about 1.5 V.


  • Storage batteries

There are many types, and their common characteristics are that they can charge and discharge repeatedly.


  • Lead accumulators

It is the most commonly used type. Its plate is a grid made of lead alloy and the electrolyte is dilute sulfuric acid. Both plates are covered with lead sulfate. However, after charging, lead sulfate on the positive plate is converted into lead dioxide, and lead sulfate at the negative electrode is converted into metal lead. When discharge, there is a opposite chemical reaction.

The EMF of lead accumulator is about 2V, and they has storage battery of 6V or 12V in series. The concentration of sulfuric acid decreases when the battery is discharged. The method of measuring the specific gravity of the electrolyte can be used to determine whether the battery needs to be charged or whether the charging process can stop.

The advantage of lead storage battery is that the EMF is relatively stable when discharging, and the disadvantage is that the specific energy(energy stored per unit weight) is small. And this type battery is harmful to the environment. 

It is composed of positive plate group, negative plate group, electrolyte and container. The charged positive plate is brown lead dioxide (PbO2), and the negative plate is gray fluffy lead (Pb). When the electrode plate is placed in sulfuric acid (H2SO4) aqueous solution with the concentration of 27% ~ 37%, the lead and sulfuric acid react with each other, and the divalent lead positive ion (Pb2) is transferred to the electrolyte, leaving two electrons (2e -) on the negative plate. Due to the gravity of positive and negative charges, lead positive ions gather around the negative plate, which is infiltrated by a small amount of lead dioxide (PbO2) under the action of water molecules in the electrolyte. The electrolyte, in which the bivalent oxygen ions are hydrated to turn the lead dioxide molecule into the lead hydroxide[Pb(OH4]), ionized and unstable substance. Lead hydroxide consists of 4-valent lead positive ions(Pb4+)and 4 hydroxides[4(OH)], in addition, 4-valent Pb4+ is left on the positive plate with positive charge. Because the negative electrode plate is negatively charged, a certain potential difference is generated between the two poles, which is the EMF of the battery. When the external circuit is connected, the current flows from the positive electrode to the negative electrode. 

In the process of discharge, the electrons on the negative plate continue to flow through the external circuit to the positive plate. In the electrolyte, hydrogen positive ion (H) and sulfate anion (SO42-) are ionized by sulfuric acid molecule. Under the action of ion electric field force, the two ions move to positive and negative electrode respectively. When the sulfate negative ion reaches the negative plate, it binds to lead positive ion to form lead sulfate (PbSO4). On the positive plate, due to the inflow of electrons from the external circuit, and synthesized with the 4 valence lead positive ion (Pb4) to make the 2 valence lead positive ion (Pb2), and Pb2 immediately combined with the sulfate anion near the positive plate to form lead sulfate attached to the positive electrode.

With the discharge of the battery, the positive and negative plates are vulcanized, and the sulfuric acid in the electrolyte decreases gradually, while the moisture increases, which leads to the decrease of the specific gravity of the electrolyte. Under normal operation, lead battery should not discharge too much, otherwise it will make the fine lead sulfate crystal mixed with active material form a larger size, which not only increases the resistance of the plate, but also is difficult to restore it during charging, affecting the capacity and life of the storage batteries.

Lead battery has the advantages of stable working voltage, wide range of operating temperature and current, re-use, good storage performance (especially suitable for dry charge storage), and low cost, so it is widely used. In addition, the performance of lead battery can be improved by using new lead alloy. If lead-calcium alloy is used as grid, the minimum floating charge current of lead-calcium battery can be guaranteed, the amount of water added can be reduced and its service life can be prolonged, and the self-discharge and sealing needs can be met by using lead-lithium alloy casting positive grid. Also acid-proof, explosion-proof and hydrogen-free lead batteries should be developed.


  • Lead-crystal storage battery

The application of the lead-crystal storage battery is a proprietary technology, and the adopted high-conductivity silicate electrolyte is a complex modification of the traditional lead-acid battery electrolyte, and the acid-free internal formation process is the innovation of the shaping process. No pollution problem exists in the production, the use and the waste generation, and the product is more satisfied with the requirements of environmental protection, and the lead-crystal storage battery uses the silicate to replace the sulfuric acid solution as the electrolyte, thereby overcoming the short service life of the lead-acid battery, and the disadvantage that can not be charged and discharged by the large current, which is more in line with the requirements of the power battery, therefore, the lead-crystal cell will also have a great driving effect on the power battery field.

Lead crystal battery has the following advantages compared with lead acid battery:

1) Long life cycle

Generally, the charge and discharge of lead-acid battery is about 350 times, while the cycle life of lead-acid battery is more than 700 times under the premise of rated capacity discharge of 60%, which is twice the life of lead-acid battery.

2) Good discharging capability

The special process makes the lead crystal battery have the characteristic of high-rate discharge. Generally, the discharge rate of lead acid battery is only 3C, and the maximum discharge rate of lead crystal battery can reach 10C.

3) Deep discharge

The lead-crystal cell can be deeply discharged to 0V, and the continuous charging can restore all the rated capacity, which is an unattainable state with respect to a lead-acid battery.

4) Good withstand low temperature capability

The temperature adaptation range of lead crystal battery is relatively wide, from -20°C to 50°C, especially in the case of -20°C, the discharge energy can reach 87%. 

5) Eco-friendly

The new materials, new processes and new formulas used in lead crystal batteries do not exist volatile harmful substances such as acid fog, and will not cause pollution to land, rivers and so on.

  • Nickel-iron battery

It’s also called an Edison battery. The common lead storage battery is an acid storage battery, but the electrolyte of the iron-nickel storage battery is an alkaline potassium hydroxide solution, which is an alkaline storage battery. The anode is nickel oxide, and the cathode is iron. The EMF is about 1.3 to 1.4V. Its advantages are light weight, long service life and easy maintenance, the disadvantage is its low efficiency.


  • Nickel-cadmium battery

The positive electrode is nickel hydroxide, the negative electrode is cadmium, and the electrolyte is potassium hydroxide solution. Its advantages are light, seismic, long life, thus it is often used in small electronic equipment.


  • Silver-zinc storage battery

The positive electrode is silver oxide, the negative electrode is zinc, and the electrolyte is potassium hydroxide solution. Silver-zinc battery has the advantages of high specific energy, high current discharge, shock resistance, and is used as power supply for space navigation, artificial satellite, rocket and so on. The frequency of charge and discharge can reach about 100 ~ 150 times. Its disadvantage is that the price is expensive and the service life is short.


  • Fuel cell

A device that converts the chemical energy released by a fuel into electrical energy during combustion. Unlike the battery, it can continuously replenish the fuel and oxidant to the two electrode regions from the outside without charging. Fuel cell consists of four parts: fuel (such as hydrogen, methane, etc.), oxidant (such as oxygen and air, etc.), electrode and electrolyte. The electrode has catalytic property and porous structure to ensure a large active area. When working, the fuel is inserted into the negative electrode and the oxidant is introduced into the positive electrode. Each of them carries on the electrochemical reaction under the catalysis of the electrode to obtain the electric energy.

Fuel cell converts the energy released by combustion reaction directly into electric energy, so its energy utilization is high, which is about twice the efficiency of heat engine. In addition, it has the following advantages:

(1) Light weight

(2) No noise, little pollution

(3) Long life 

(4) High output power per unit weight

Therefore, it has been used in space navigation and has shown a wide range of applications in military and civil fields.

 battery image

  • Solar cell

A device that converts the energy of sunlight into electricity. When the sun is irradiated, the terminal voltage is generated and the current is obtained, which is used in artificial satellites. The solar cells in spaceships are made of semiconductors (usually silicon photocells). When the sun shines on the surface of the solar cell, the potential difference is formed on both sides of the semiconductor PN junction. The efficiency is more than 10%, and the typical output power is 5 ~10 MW per square centimeter (junction area).


  • Thermopiles

Two metals are connected into a closed circuit and maintain different temperatures at the two joints, generating EMF, which is a thermoelectromotive force. This called the Seebeck effect, and the device based on is called thermocouple. Metal thermocouple is small and is often used to measure the temperature difference. However, when the thermocouple is connected into thermopile, it can also be used as a low power supply. The thermoelectric effect of thermopiles made of semiconductor material is strong.


  • Nuclear battery

A device that converts nuclear energy directly into electric energy (nuclear power generation devices use nuclear fission energy to heat steam to drive generators to generate electricity, and nuclear energy released in the process of nuclear fission cannot be directly converted into electric energy). Conventional nuclear batteries include radioactive sources β-rays (high-speed electron streams), collectors that collect these electrons, and insulators through which electrons pass from radioactive sources to collectors. One end of the radioactive source becomes a positive electrode because of the loss of negative electricity, and one end of the collector gets negative electricity to become a negative pole. And a potential difference is formed between the radioactive source and the electrodes at both ends of the collector. This kind of nuclear battery can produce high voltage, but the current is very small. It is used in man-made satellites and exploration spacecraft and can be used for a long time.


  • Primary battery

After primary discharge (continuous or intermittent) to the depletion of battery capacity, the battery can no longer be effectively restored by charging method. It is easy to carry, do not need maintenance, and can be long-term (months or even years) stored. The original batteries mainly include zinc-manganese battery, zinc-mercury battery, zinc-air battery, solid electrolyte battery and lithium battery. In addition, zinc manganese battery is divided into dry battery and alkaline battery.


  • Zinc-manganese battery

Primary batteries are still used in large quantities for a long time. There are both cylindrical and laminated structures. The invention is characterized by convenient use, low price and rich raw material source, and is suitable for automatic volume production. But the discharge voltage is not stable and the capacity is greatly influenced by the discharge rate, which is suitable for small and medium discharge rate and intermittent discharge. The new zinc-manganese dry battery has the advantages of high concentration of zinc chloride electrolyte, excellent manganese dioxide powder and paperboard pulp layer structure, and the capacity and the service life of the novel zinc-manganese dry battery are doubled. Because of these advantages, the sealing performance is improved.


  • Alkaline zinc-manganese battery

Zinc-manganese battery with alkaline electrolyte instead of neutral electrolyte. There are two types of cylinder and button. The advantages of this battery are large capacity, stable voltage, high current continuous discharge, and it can work at low temperature (- 40 ℃). This kind of battery can be charged and discharged dozens of times under specified conditions.


  • Zinc-mercury cell

It was invented S. Robin, a American scientist, so it is also known as Robin battery. It was the first small battery to be invented. There are two types: button type and cylinder type. The discharge voltage is stable and can be used in a voltage standard with less strict requirements. The disadvantage is that the low temperature performance is poor (can only be used above 0 ℃), and mercury is harmful to the environment. Zinc mercury batteries have been gradually replaced by other series of batteries.


  • Zinc air battery

Oxygen is used as the positive active substance, so the specific capacity is large. There are two series of alkaline and neutral, and there are two kinds of wet and dry in structure. Only one kind of wet battery is alkaline. NaOH is used as electrolyte, the price is low, and the fixed battery is made into large capacity (more than 100A/h). Dry batteries are alkaline and neutral. Neutral air dry battery is rich in raw materials and cheap, but can only work at low current. Alkaline air dry cell can discharge at high current, and discharge continuously, better than intermittent discharge. All air dry batteries are affected by environmental humidity. Short service life and poor reliability can not be used in a sealed state.


  • Solid electrolyte cell

Solid ion conductor is used as electrolyte, which can be divided into two categories: high temperature and room temperature. High temperature sodium sulfur battery, can work at high current. Silver iodine battery at room temperature is expensive, and its voltage only has 0.6V, so that it has not yet been used. Lithium iodine battery has been used with a voltage of 2.7V, because it is highly reliable and can be used in pacemakers. However, the discharge current of this kind of battery can only reach microampere level.


  • Lithium battery

A battery with lithium as the negative electrode. According to the electrolytes used, they are divided into: high temperature molten salt lithium battery, organic electrolyte lithium battery, inorganic non-aqueous electrolyte lithium battery, solid electrolyte lithium battery and lithium water battery.

The advantages of lithium battery are high voltage, high specific energy, long storage life (up to 10 years), good temperature performance, and can be used at -40℃ ~ 150 ℃. The disadvantage is that the price is expensive and poor security. In recent years, the emergence of power batteries and new cathode materials, especially phosphate, has been vigorously developed. The development of ferrous lithium materials is making great development to the lithium batteries.


  • Reserve battery

There are two activation methods, one is to store the electrolyte separately from the electrode, and the electrolyte is injected into the battery pack before use, such as magnesium seawater battery, reserve chromic acid battery and zinc-silver battery. The other is to use molten salt electrolyte, which is not conductive at room temperature. The electrolyte is rapidly melted and activated by igniting heating agent before use, which is called thermal cell. The battery can use calcium, magnesium or lithium alloy as negative electrode, low eutectic melt of KCl and LiCl as electrolyte, CaCrO4,PbSO4 or V2O5 as positive electrode, zirconium powder or iron powder as heating agent. Full sealing structure can be stored for a long term (more than 10 years). Thus it is suitable for special purposes.


  • Standard battery

The most famous is Weston standard battery, which can be divided into saturated type and non-saturated type. The standard EMF is 1.01864V (20 ℃). The voltage temperature coefficient of the non-saturated type is about 1/4 of that of the saturated type.


  • Paste zinc-manganese battery

Consist of a zinc cylinder, an electric paste layer, a manganese dioxide positive electrode, a carbon rod, and a copper cap. The outermost layer is a zinc cylinder, which is both a negative electrode and container, and is gradually dissolved in the discharging process. And the center is a carbon rod with a current collecting effect, in addition, the carbon rod is a mixture of dark brown or black manganese dioxide powder and a conductive material (graphite or acetylene black), which is the positive pole of the battery, also called a carbon bag. In order to avoid water evaporation, the upper part of the dry cell is sealed with a paraffin or an asphalt.


  • Paperboard zinc-manganese battery

It is improved on the basis of paste zinc-manganese dry cell. It is based on high quality kraft paper with thickness of 70μm to 100μm without metal impurities, coated with mixed paste, and then dried to make paperboard to replace the paste electrolyte layer in paste zinc-manganese dry battery. The actual discharge capacity of paper zinc-manganese dry battery is 2 times higher than that of ordinary paste zinc-manganese dry battery.


  • Alkaline zinc-manganese battery

The electrolyte is made of mercury homogenized zinc powder, 35% potassium hydroxide solution and some sodium carboxymethyl cellulose. Because the solidification point of potassium hydroxide solution is low and the internal resistance is small, the alkaline zinc-manganese dry battery can work at -20 ℃ and discharge at high current. Alkaline zinc-manganese dry battery can be charged and discharged more than 40 times, but deep discharge can not be carried out before charging (retaining 60% ~ 70% capacity), and it is necessary to strictly control the charging current and the voltage at the end of the charging period.


  • Injection mode zinc-manganese battery

It consists of several compact flat single batteries stacked together. Each single cell consists of a plastic shell, zinc skin, conductive film, diaphragm paper, and carbon. Diaphragm paper is a kind of pulp paper with starch layer on the surface of electrolyte, which is affixed to zinc skin; the carbon is on the diaphragm paper. Diaphragm paper, like the paste layer of paste dry battery, plays the role of isolating zinc skin negative electrode and carbon positive electrode. Laminated zinc-manganese dry battery deals with the trouble of series combination of cylindrical paste dry battery. Its structure is compact, and the volume is small, but its storage life is short and the internal resistance is large.

 battery image

  • Alkaline accumulator

Compared with the lead battery with the same capacity, it has the advantages of small volume, long life and high current discharge, but the cost is higher. Alkaline batteries are divided into iron-nickel, cadmium-nickel, zinc-silver batteries and other series according to plate active materials. Taking cadmium-nickel battery as an example, the working principle of alkaline battery is as follows: after charging, the positive plate is nickel hydroxide (Ni (OH) 3), and the negative plate is metal cadmium (Cd); after discharging, the positive plate is transformed into nickel hydroxide (Ni (OH2), and the negative plate is cadmium hydroxide (Cd (OH) 2). Commonly, potassium hydroxide (KOH) solution is used as the electrolyte.


  • Metal-air battery

A high energy battery in which oxygen is used as a positive active substance and metal as a negative active substance. The metals used are generally magnesium, aluminum, zinc, cadmium, iron and so on, and electrolytes are aqueous solutions.

Metal-air batteries have higher specific energy because air is not calculated within the weight of the battery. The specific energy of zinc air battery is the highest among the current batteries, which has reached 400Wh/kg. It is a kind of high performance medium power battery, and it is developing in the direction of high power battery. At present, the metal-air battery is mainly primary battery, and the secondary metal-air battery is a mechanical recharging battery with metal electrode replacement. Because metal-air batteries have to supply air continuously when they work, they cannot work in sealed or air-scarce environments. In addition, the electrolyte solution in the battery is easily affected by air humidity and the performance of the battery is degraded, in addition, the oxygen in the air will pass through the air electrode and spread to the metal electrode, resulting in self-discharge caused by corrosion of the battery.


  • Nanobattery

Nanobatteries are made of nanomaterials. Nanomaterials have special microstructure and physicochemical properties, such as quantum size effect, surface effect and tunnel quantum effect, etc.). Mainly used in electric vehicles, electric motorcycles, electric booster cars. The battery can be rechargeable for 1000 times, and it takes only about 20 minutes to charge fully. And the Ni-H batteries take about 6 hours and 8 hours to reach 300 km.

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1 comment

    • Hans on 2019-12-20 17:20:41

    All you need is a DC/DC boost converter to charge the batteries in situ and keep the 3 separate batteries as backup or keep those topped up and switch them over, as and when. You could use a converter with a transistor switched via an oscillator. There are many ways of doing this, including charging each individual battery through an automatic Voltage controlled switch from the vehicle charging system.

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