The A B C’s of Batteries!
You can hardly move 5 feet in any direction today, without crossing paths with a battery-operated device! We live in an age, where almost anything that can be plugged into an electrical wall outlet, can also operate on battery power.
This page is dedicated to information about batteries. At Onlybatteries.com we’re dedicated to helping our visitors understand how batteries can and will likely become an even larger part of their day to day lives than ever before. For generations to come, batteries will continue to power us through life.
Let’s look at the origin, the history and the evolution of batteries because, as they say, “You can’t know where you’re going, until you understand where you’ve been”.
A website called yourdictionary.com describes the definition of the word battery (in the field of electricity) as follows:
In Electricity, a battery is:
- a connected group of electrochemical cells that store electric charges and generate direct current
- a single cell of this type
- a similar nuclear, solar, or thermal device that stores and generates electrical energy
What follows is the historical timeline of the evolution of the battery. As you read this, you will discover how primitive they first were, and will quickly become impressed, as we were when performing this research, at the caliber of their evolution to present day.
The history and evolution of electrochemical cells has proven essential in scientific and industrial applications of electricity throughout the world. Before electrical grids(which came to existence at the end of the 19th century) electro-chemical cells were the main source of electricity.
It was Benjamin Franklin first coined the term "battery" in 1749, to describe a set of capacitors, which were linked together. He used these linked capacitors for his experiments with electricity. The capacitors were panels with metal coated glass on them. They were charged (given power) by static generators and then discharged(depleted of power), by touching the metal to their electrode. Linking them together in a "cell", gave it a stronger discharge.
In 1800, We see the Advent of The Voltaic Pile : Named for Allessandro Volta. Here is a Brief Synopsis of How This Came to Be.
It was Luigi Galvani who, in 1780, during the dissection a frog which was attached to a brass hook, noticed that when he touched its’ leg with his iron scalpel, the leg moved, or “twitched”. Galvani determined that the energy that caused this contraction, had come from the leg itself, and he referred to this as "animal electricity". However, it was Alessandro Volta, who was a colleague scientist to Galvani, who disagreed with his theory, and believed that this phenomenon was actually caused by 2 different metals being joined together by a catalyst that had a moisture component within it, that caused this reaction. His experiments proved this hypothesis and his work was eventually published in 1791. However, in 1800, Alessandro Volta invented the first real battery, called the Voltaic (named for Volta himself) Pile. It was called “pile”, because of the configuration of pairs of zinc and copper discs that were PILED one on top of the other, and each layer was separated by a cloth layer (sometimes cardboard was used) that was soaked in brine (this acted as the electrolyte). This battery, the “Voltaic Pile” produced a STABLE current, and it lost very little charge when it was not being used (today, this is called self-discharge). Volta experimented with various metals and found that zinc and silver gave the best results, producing sparks. This was better than the zinc and copper combination which did not produce sparks in Volta’s experiments.
There were more developments over the next 60 years but we jump now to 1859 where we learn about the first Rechargeable Battery, called the LEAD ACID cell.
In 1859, Lead Acid Chemistry becomes The 1st Rechargeable Battery
Up to this point in battery history, batteries would be rendered permanently drained (dead) when all their chemicals were depleted/spent. In 1859, it was Gaston Planté who invented the lead-acid battery. This was the first battery ever that could be RECHARGED,therefore, was a re-usable product. Battery history had been made! A lead acid cell consists of a lead anode and a lead dioxide cathode which are submersed in sulfuric acid. Both electrodes reacted with the sulfuric acid, which produced lead sulfate, but the reaction at the lead anode released electrons during the reaction of the lead dioxide consuming them, and this produced an electric current. These chemical reactions could then be reversed, by passing a reverse a current back through the battery, and this process RECHARGED the battery!
In 1886, The Zinc-Carbon Cell Becomes the 1st Dry Cell Battery
In 1886 Carl Gassner obtained patent # 37,758 which came to be known as the dry cell because it did not have any free liquid electrolyte in it. Instead, ammonium chloride was mixed together with plaster of Paris which created a paste. This, together with a small amount of zinc chloride, extended the shelf life of the cell. Themanganese dioxide cathode was dipped into this paste and both were sealed in a zinc shell which also acted as the anode. In November 1887 Gassner received a United States patent for this improved device.
In 1899, The NiCd (Nickel Cadmium) Chemistry Battery Forms The 1StGeneration Alkaline Battery
In 1899, Swedish scientist by the name of Waldemar Jungner invented a nickel-cadmium chemistry battery. This was a rechargeable battery, with both nickel and cadmium electrodes that were in a potassium hydroxide solution. It was first battery to use an Alkaline electrolyte. It was marketing in Sweden in 1910 and brought to the American marketplace in 1946. The first production lines of them were strong and they had significantly better energy-density than did lead-acid batteries.They were therefore, more expensive.
In 1903, The World Sees The 1st Nickel Iron Battery
WaldemarJungner additionally invented the nickel iron battery. He did this in the same year as the NiCd battery, but found it to be inferior in performance to the NiCd equivalent and therefore, did not apply for a patent for it. Because it produced more hydrogen gas during the charging process, it couldn't be sealed and therefore the charging process was more inefficient, although it was less expensive. It was Thomas Edison who picked up Jugner's nickel iron battery design, and ended up patenting it himself in 1903. Edison wanted to market a more light-weight and durable version of the lead-acid battery that powered some early cars and believed that in-so-doing, electric cars would become the standard. He could then be the only supplier of this battery. However, customers found his first model to be leak-prone and it was revealed that it did not outperform the lead-acid cell by any significant value. Although Edison was able to produce a stronger and more reliable and consistent model 7 years later, by this time, the very reliable Model T Ford(manufactured by Henry Ford), had made gasoline engine cars, the standard over electric. Regardless Edison’s battery become popular for many other applications.
In 1955, Came What is Now Known as The Common Alkaline Battery
In 1955, an engineer named Lewis Urry who was working for the Eveready battery company (which is now known as Energizer), was mandated to look for a way to extend the life of zinc-carbon batteries. Instead, he concluded that Alkaline batteries offered more promise. Until that point, long lasting alkaline batteries were expensive, but Urry's battery consisted of a manganese dioxide cathode coupled with a powdered zinc anode that had an alkaline electrolyte. Using powdered zinc gave the anode a greater surface area. These Alkaline batteries became available on the public market in1959.
In The Early 1970’s, The Nickel Hydrogen Battery Arrives on the Scene
Nickel Hydrogen Chemistry batteries entered the market as an energy storing sub-system used in commercial communications satellites. To this day, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) uses Nickel Hydrogen chemistry batteries for some of their satellites in orbit.
In The 1980’s, The World is Introduced to The (NiMh) Nickel Metal Hydride Battery
NiMh Rechargeable batteries first became available to consumers and industry in 1989, as a similar battery to the 1970’s nickel hydrogen battery. Nickel Metal Hydride batteries have longer life spans (amount of life cycles – charges) than Nickel Cadmiums and their life spans continue to increase, as manufacturers experiment with new alloys. NiMh rechargeable batteries are less damaging to the environment than Nickel Cadmium chemistry, which is toxic to our planet and land fills.
We are now at 1970s and 1990s, when Lithium and Lithium Ion Batteries Arrive.
Lithium is the metal with lowest density and has the greatest electrochemical potential and energy to weight ratio, making it the ideal material for battery production. In the 1970’s,the first Lithium batteries were sold to the public, and in the 1980’s, an American chemist led a research team at Sony Corporation, that produced the Lithium Ion battery, which was a rechargeable and more stable counterpart to the lithium battery. The first Lithium Ions were available for purchase in 1991.
In 1996, The Lithium Ion Polymer Battery was Released.
These batteries contain their electrolyte inside a SOLID polymer composite instead of a liquid solvent,and the separators and electrodes are laminated to one another. This allows the battery to be encapsulated in a flexible wrapping rather than a rigid metal enclosure,which means that these batteries can be shaped specifically to fit into a particular device in a customized way. Lithium Ion Polymer batteries also have higher energy densities than standard Lithium Ion batteries. This makes them the ideal choice for many portable electronic devices such as PDA and cellular telephones.
Here are some of the more frequently asked battery questions we receive from callers and email inquirers, on a regular basis. It’s by no means the complete list - it’s simply an overview of the questions most often posed to us by consumers.
For all addition questions you might have about batteries that are not addressed in this section, please don’t hesitate to reach us and we’ll be happy to reply to you in a timely and friendly manner, and deliver quality technical information to you.
1) How are batteries rated, and what do the ratings mean on my batteries?
Batteries are rated by the mAh (milliamere hours) they deliver. This is actually a unit of measurement of the battery’s capacity. It is calculated by multiplying the current flow in amperes by the time it takes in hours to discharge. (An often used example of a basic formula is: A battery that delivers 5 amperes for 20 hours, delivers 5 amperes times (x) 20 hours, and this equals 100 ampere-hours.)
2) What is a Cycle?
One cycle of a battery is the time it takes to fully discharge its’ power, starting from full power capacity. Some rechargeable batteries can perform 2000 charge cycles in their total lifespan. Non rechargeable batteries, like Alkaline batteries, offer one cycle.
3) What does Memory Effect mean,when referring to rechargeable batteries?
The term “memory effect”, is a term used to describe the resulting reduced capacity of power storage that a battery will have if recharged prior to it becoming fully depleted of power first. NiCd chemistry rechargeable batteries can experience memory effect. If you recharge NiCd’s prior to when they are empty (dead), say at only ½ full, only the empty half is replenished, and this half way mark, can become the new TOTAL power volume for that battery. NiMh (Nickel Metal Hydride)chemistry rechargeable batteries do not experience memory effect. You may recharge them prior to fully depleted power without concern that their “memory”for total storage of power, will become reduced.
To see our inventory of NO MEMORY EFFECT Visit NiMh rechargeable batteries.
4) Should I store my batteries in a refrigerator instead of a drawer or on my workshop table?
Duracell has this to say about battery storage temperatures: “Store batteries in a dry place at normal room temperature. Extreme temperatures reduce battery performance”.
Energizer publishes this advice: “Storing batteries in refrigerators or freezers is not required or recommended for batteries produced today. In fact, cold temperature storage can harm batteries. To maximize performance and shelf life, store batteries at normal room temperatures with moderate humidity levels”.
Check our our selection of battery racks for storage.
5) How can I tell if my batteries are still good?
You can determine if your batteries are still useful by testing them on a battery tester. It’s a simple to use and effective device, built strictly for this purpose. See our battery testers here.
6) Can I recharge any battery I have?
No! Only a battery that specifically says “rechargeable” on it, can be charged and recharged.Alkaline and Lithium chemistry batteries are not rechargeable. They are what is called “Single Use” or Disposable”. It is dangerous to try to charge these chemistries! NiCd ( Nickel Cadmium), NiMh (Nickel Metal Hydride) and Li-Ion(Lithium Ion) are battery chemistries that can be recharged. If you have rechargeable batteries and need a charger to charge them with, see our selection of dedicated, universal, smart and timer controlled battery chargers.
7) How important is it to put the batteries in, with the + and – signs in the correct direction?
The + and – (plus and minus) signs on batteries, refer to the polarities (poles/posts) of the battery. It isessential to always insert batteries in the arrangement (direction) the device labels. In the battery compartment for digital camera for instance, placing even one battery into the compartment incorrectly, can reduce overall performance of the camera, can cause leakage and or rupture to the incorrectly placed battery, and cause possible permanent damage to the camera itself. Always follow the direction of the + and –signs indicated on the device, for proper placement of the batteries into it.
8) How do I get rid of batteries when they are dead?
When your non rechargeable and rechargeable batteries have come to the end of their life span (rechargeables have exhausted their maximum life cycles), the proper and environmentally friendly way to dispose of them, is to recycle them. Contact your municipal recycling department for guidance on where to bring “dead” batteries for recycling. Please protect our planet!
9) How long will my batteries last in my equipment?
This is almost impossible to answer accurately in one fell swoop. There are several factors that impact the length of service a battery will provide. The most important aspect for run time, is the rate at which the device consumes or drains power. For instance, digital cameras are high-drain devices and will drain a battery faster than, say, a wall clock, which is a low drain device. After high or low drain, comes battery size, chemistry, conditions of use (prolonged or intermittent), temperature and other factors. It is always best to speak to a battery expert for this type of general question. At onlybatteries.com, you will find battery experts.
10) Our organization requires 22,000 batteries to be delivered this month. We don't plan to use them all at once. Can you advise which batteries will provide the longest shelf lives?
Of course we can! What kind of battery supplier would we be if we didn’t supply the correct product for the customer’s requirements? We will deliver exactly what you need. Just Tell Us!
Visit our Battery Information Center (where you’ll ALSO see our INCREDIBLE DAILY SPECIALS), or, for information purposes only, please read more on batteries, below.
BATTERY INFORMATION CENTER
We are pleased to provide this information page about battery chemistry,definitions, and commonly used battery terms. This content is provided to help you make more informed choices about all the battery products you purchase. As always, we invite you to contact us, should you have any battery inquiries not addressed on this page. We are always happy to assist you!
Common Battery Chemistries
Ni-Cd (Nickel Cadmium) batteries are the most sought out rechargeable batteries in the world. Their composition is toxic to our planet if left in land-fills so it's important to recycle all NiCd batteries when we are done with them. NiCd batteries are available in AA, AAA, C, D, 9-Volt sizes. Ni-Cd batteries and battery packs are commonly used in low-drain applications such as: radio-control vehicles, cordless power tools such as drills, clocks, flashlights, and solar lighting, just to name some of the most widely used applications. It's important to discharge these batteries fully before charging them, or their capacity will drop, resulting in less run-time during operation. This is often referred to as the "Memory Effect". There are battery chargers with a discharge feature built-in to the unit for the convenience of not having to run the actual device that holds the battery, in order to fully drain it prior to recharging.
NiMH- Nickel Metal Hydride is the newest in rechargeable battery chemistry available in AA, AAA, C, Sub-C, D, and 9-Volt size batteries. NiMH batteries have higher capacities than Ni-Cd batteries and are not subject to "Memory Effect". This means you can recharge them before they have become fully drained of power, and they will not lose some of their total capacity. The battery will not "remember" the amount of recharging they were"topped off" with. NiMh rechargeable batteries are commonly used in the following high-drain applications: Digital Cameras, Pagers, Hand-Held Radios, Walkie Talkies, Cellular Phones, Children Toys, Shavers, Discmans, Tazers, Flashlights, plus of course, many other devices. NiMH batteries are more expensive than Ni-Cd batteries, however they will last longer than Ni-Cd's between charges, and offer more charge times (called cycles). We have many Battery Chargers available for these batteries and urge you to check out the"rapid charger", "smart charger" and "Intelligent Charger" sections of our website.
ALKALINE- This is a widely used chemistry in batteries. Alkaline batteries are non-rechargeable and also called single use and/or disposable.
LI-ION -Lithium Ion is the newest battery chemistry that exists today. Lithium Ion rechargeable batteries can be just as high in capacity as Ni-MH batteries, but to date, are only available for laptop and cellular telephones. Lithium Ion batteries are smaller and lighter in weight than NiMH batteries. They are memory-free.
LITHIUM -Lithium batteries are non rechargeable. They offer 1.5 volts and a very long shelf-life, in the neighborhood of 15 years. Lithium batteries are best suited for high-drain applications. They are best applied to power hungry equipment and offer a very long shelf-life at 10 years.
LITHIUM PHOSPHATE - (LifePO4),are rechargeable batteries with some pretty terrific features! They offer up to 2000 charge cycles are light weight and are high energy density. They have a long storage life and do not suffer from memory effect!
They are used in Airsoft guns, RC racing cars, and often in custom battery packs
ZINC AIR - A chemistry used in Hearing Aid Batteries. They are non-rechargeable and operate by oxidizing zinc with oxygen from the air. They are the batteries found within hearing aids and many wristwatches. When the zinc air systems is sealed, the shelf life is long and the self-discharge rate is very slow, typically at a rate of only 2% per year.
Should you have any battery chemistry questions,drop us a line or give a call toll-free. We will gladly help you determine which type of battery chemistry best suits all your battery operated applications.
Battery Glossary - Fundamentals in Battery Terminology
Amp Hours (Ah) -Refers to the amperage - the strength of the electrical current expressed in amperes that the battery can hold. The higher the Ah, the longer the battery will last in-between charges. In batteries, this is most often expressed in mAh (milliampere hours).
Bay - A single compartment within a battery charger
Capacity - Measured in Amp Hours or milliampere hours and is the amount of time the battery can supply the necessary voltage.
Cell - One individual battery canister.Commonly arranged with other cells, to form battery packs of different voltage and capacities.
Charge: - A device whose purpose is to recharge the power to rechargeable batteries.
Condition - The process by which a battery is discharged and charged in order to guarantee maximum performance.
Discharge - The process of taking energy out of a battery. This can be done by depleting the power through use, or deliberately discharging the battery's power through the discharging function of a battery charger.
Life Cycle - The amount of times a battery can be charged and discharged before it no longer has any power.
Low Self-Discharge -A term used for batteries that self-discharge more SLOWLY, than at a standard self-discharge rate.
Memory Effect - The Effect that represents the decrease in capacity and voltage in Ni-Cd batteries due to repetitive charging and incomplete discharging (draining). This results in less overall run-time between charges.
MilliAmp Hours (mAh) -Applies to how much energy the battery can store - the capacity of the battery. The higher the mAh is, the longer the run-time between charges. One(1) mAh is the equivalent to 1/1000 Amps. IE: 2.7 Ah = 2700 mAh.
Self-Discharge - If batteries are fully charged and sit on the shelf, not in use, they will self-discharge / lose capacity on their own while idle.
Voltage - Voltage is the measurement of energy in electricity, particularly, the unit energy of the charge.
We are fully equipped to supply product at the wholesale level of pricing for quantity users of ALL TYPES and sizes of batteries. Many of our wholesale clients have special delivery needs. Some ask us to deliver their order, in scheduled shipments over time. Others need the merchandise delivered to multiple branch locations. Whatever your wholesale batteries requirements are, we will work closely with you to accommodate even the most tailored specifics. We’ll do our best to be your number 1 battery supplier. Our entire Wholesale Section of Batteries and Battery Chargers, can be reviewed at this link.
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We invite you to check out our Battery Information Articles section where you will find a good deal of valuable and educational information on batteries and battery chargers in general.
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