Batteries are an irreplaceable part of our lives since our lives orbit around electricity and electrical devices that are powered by these batteries. They are devices that comprise of one or more electrochemical cells (that generate current and power from a chemical reaction between two different substances rather than mechanical movement) with external connections to provide the generated electrical energy to the suitable electrical devices. While the purpose and motive of a battery are singular, there is a wide range of different types of batteries that are produced commercially for various applications. These batteries differ from each other in the matters of sizes, longevity, energy density, the technology they utilize for generating power, and the cost of production or purchase.
From the plethora of varying styles and functions, here are six of the most commonly used batteries: lead-acid, alkaline, NiMH, NiCd, Li-ion, and LiPo.
The lead-acid battery is the oldest type of rechargeable battery, which was invented by Gaston Plante in 1859. It is bulky and requires considerably more space than other batteries. However, the huge surge currents that the battery is able to provide indicates that, despite the low energy-to-weight and energy-to-volume ratios, the power-to-weight ratio of the lead-acid battery is relatively large. Moreover, the cost of production of a lead-acid battery is significantly lower than other batteries providing the same amount of power.
Therefore, lead-acid batteries are the most economical batteries for large power applications where the weight of the battery is of little concern.
The most common application of these batteries is in the automobile industry, where they are used for starting, lighting and ignition (SLI) purposes in cars. Lead-acid batteries are also used as large emergency power backups in computer centers, for grid energy storage, and to power sump pumps in case of power failures.
Alkaline batteries are one of the more common batteries that are available in different shapes and sizes for different devices. Although rechargeable versions of this battery are an invention of the recent times, the first of alkaline batteries have been present since 1899.
They are a type of primary battery dependent on the chemical reaction between zinc (Zn) and manganese (IV) oxide (MnO2) due to the difference between the electronegativities of the two substances.
These batteries have a comparatively higher energy density and longer shelf-life than its predecessors called Leclanche cells. The typical values of voltage and current supplied by a single alkaline cell are 1.5V and 700mA.
Alkaline batteries are the most common batteries in our daily lives that power a huge number of small household electronic devices. To name a few of them, they include MP3 players, CD players, digital cameras, radios, and many toys.
The NiMH batteries are an acronym for nickel-metal hydride batteries. The positive electrode of the cell (anode) undergoes a similar reaction to the anode of a nickel cadmium battery, but the negative electrode (cathode) uses a hydrogen-absorbing alloy instead of cadmium. The capacity of a NiMH battery can be two to three times the capacity of a NiCd battery of equal size, while the energy density of NiMH batteries can be equal to that of Li-ion batteries.
This provides the NiMH battery a higher energy density than a NiCd battery but at the expense of a reduced charge/discharge cycle life.
The rechargeable NiMH batteries have replaced NiCd batteries in many applications. They are usually available in AA batteries. These batteries are used in several consumer electronics as well as in electric vehicles such as Honda EV Plus and Vectrix Scooter. Many hybrid vehicles also use them, such as Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid.
The NiCd batteries are the short form of nickel-cadmium batteries, a type of rechargeable battery that utilizes nickel oxide hydroxide (NiOOH) and metallic cadmium as electrodes.
The wet-cell nickel cadmium batteries were invented in 1899, but these rechargeable batteries lost a significant amount of market share in the 1990s due to the popular growth of other rechargeable batteries such as Li-ion batteries and NiMH batteries.
The sizes of NiCd batteries vary significantly and are produced from portable sealed types interchangeable with carbon-zinc dry cells to large ventilated cells for standby power and motive power. The advantage that they provide is a greater charge/discharge cycle life compared to other batteries.
Sealed type NiCd cells can be used individually as well as assembled into battery packs. The small batteries are used for portable devices and toys.
Lithium-ion batteries are different than other batteries in how they function. While other batteries use the motion of electrons for electricity, Li-ion batteries are a type of rechargeable battery in which lithium ions move from the negative electrode to the positive electrode during discharge and in the reverse direction when charging. Although it is a metal, lithium ions are negatively charged, explaining why the electricity is produced by the motion of ions. These batteries use an intercalated lithium compound as one electrode material compared to the metallic lithium used in a non-rechargeable lithium battery.
Li-ion batteries are common in many home electronics that require the capacity of a rechargeable battery to function. Due to their high energy densities, tiny memory effect, and low self-discharge, they are frequently used in cellphones and laptops.
LiPo is the acronym of lithium polymer batteries that are another type of rechargeable batteries with the lithium-ion technology. LiPo batteries come in soft packages or pouches, which make them lighter and less rigid. These cells share the same history as other Li-ion batteries and, similarly, they went under rigorous research in the 1980s. The name “lithium polymer” (LiPo) is widespread among users of radio-controlled models, for which it may indicate a single cell or a battery pack with cells connected in series or parallel.
Due to the light weight and a battery charge/discharge cycle life similar to Li-ion cell, LiPo batteries are frequently used in radio-controlled aircraft. Along with them, it is also used in many electric vehicles.