Batteries are the power sources for thousands of tools, machines, devices, and gadgets. Batteries help you keep track of time, start your laptop, check your temperature, or power the drill you use to build a patio deck. This guide explains the features and characteristics of many types of batteries.
Batteries have become a very important source of energy in the last decade or so. Even before that, they were an integral part of our lives in powering several portable devices like transistor radios, Walkman, handheld games, cameras, etc.
But with the development in advanced smartphones, tablets, laptops, solar energy, and electric vehicles, the research into powerful batteries that can last longer and can deliver the necessary energy has been at its peak.
As a matter of fact, the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to three scientists John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, and Akira Yoshino for the development of lithium-ion batteries.
What Is A Battery?
A battery is a device that converts chemical energy contained within its active materials directly into electric energy by means of an electrochemical oxidation-reduction (redox) reaction. This type of reaction involves the transfer of electrons from one material to another via an electric circuit.
While the term battery is often used the cell is the actual electrochemical unit used to generate or store electric energy.
In understanding the differences between a cell and a battery, one should think of a battery as one or more of these cells connected in series, parallel, or both, depending on the desired output voltage and capacity.
How do Batteries work?
A battery produces electrical energy upon demand through the battery’s terminals or electrodes. The positive terminal is at the top of most batteries used for consumer goods like flashlights and electronics. The outer case and bottom of the battery make up its negative terminal.
The positive and negative terminals are identified on all types of battery sizes. The terminals and the battery’s encased chemicals together comprise the power cell.
The power cell creates energy when the battery’s positive and negative terminals connect to a circuit – the metal part in a flashlight case, for example – and the device is switched on. The chemicals inside the cell, such as alkaline and lithium, start a reaction producing ions and electrons that power whatever the battery is connected to.
Difference Between Cell and Battery
A cell is a single unit of device that converts chemical energy into electrical energy. A battery is a collection of cells that converts chemical energy into electrical energy.
When we look at the differences between cell and battery, the biggest distinction would be – a battery typically stores energy whereas a cell generates energy by converting available resources. However, you will find some other differences between the two below.
|A cell is a single-unit device that converts chemical energy into electric energy.||A battery usually consists of a group of cells.|
|Depending on the types of electrolytes used, a cell is either reserved, wet or dry types. Cell also includes a molten salt type.||A battery is either a primary battery or a secondary battery meaning it is rechargeable or non-chargeable.|
|A cell is usually light and compact as it has a single unit.||The battery normally consists of several cells thus giving it a bigger size and is bulky.|
|A cell supplies power for a shorter period of time.||A battery can supply power for long durations.|
|A cell is used mostly for lighter tasks that require less energy. It is used in clocks, lamps, etc.||A battery is mostly used for heavy-duty tasks. It is used in automobiles, inverters, etc.|
|Cells are usually cheap||Batteries are much costlier.|
Types of Batteries
When choosing batteries, there are lots of things to consider. Different chemical constructions offer unique benefits depending on where the battery is being used. Outlined below are common battery types, along with the pros and cons of each.
1. Alkaline Batteries
Alkaline batteries are found in most household and office devices like clocks, calculators, games and toys, and smoke detectors. These types of batteries have a shelf life of five years or longer.
- Alkaline batteries can be used for high- and low-drain devices but can drain quickly in high-drain devices like digital cameras.
- Rechargeable alkaline batteries are designed to be fully charged after repeated use. These are best used with low-drain devices or devices that are used periodically. It can be hazardous to recharge disposable alkaline batteries, so look closely at its label.
Alkaline batteries are economical, easy to dispose of, and extremely popular. They normally have a capacity rating of over 2,500 mAh, great for moderate to heavy-use devices. Unlike lithium batteries, almost every standard-size battery offers an alkaline construction, making it perfect for most devices.
- Great price for quality
- Last longer due to potassium hydroxide construction
- Shelf life is 5-10 years
- Function well even in extreme temperatures, working well in outdoor devices like flashlights
- Lead, mercury, and cadmium-free is good for the environment, and the batteries don’t need to be disposed of in a specific way
- Heavy and bulky, without additional voltage
- It May not work well in high-drain devices
- Will sometimes leak, causing the device to become unusable.
2. Lithium Batteries
Lithium batteries are widely used in consumer devices that require heavy electrical current usage, from thermometers and remote car fobs to critical medical devices like pacemakers. These batteries cost more but are designed to meet the demand.
Lithium batteries are one of the most commonly used battery types. They offer the highest energy density of any other battery cell, meaning they store more energy than other batteries, such as alkaline.
Lithium batteries are only sold in AA, AAA, and 9V sizes; however, their mAh ratings exceed every other non-rechargeable battery. One AA lithium battery ranges from 2,700-3,400 mAh and will last a long time, even under heavy use.
- Last up to 4x longer compared to other battery types
- Light-weight for portable devices
- Ideal for heavy-use
- Function well even in extreme temperatures, working well in outdoor devices like flashlights
- Shelf life is 10-12 years; great for use in emergency devices, as the batteries will not leak or explode
- Much more expensive than other battery types
- Highly flammable; require special disposal at specified locations and cannot be thrown away
- Don’t come in bigger battery sizes like C or D
3. Zinc-Carbon Batteries
Zinc-carbon batteries are general-purpose batteries found in devices throughout your house, like the remote control that runs the thermostat.
Most zinc-carbon batteries have a short shelf life and are best suited for low-drain devices. Super heavy-duty zinc-carbon batteries can last up to five years, but these types of batteries are prone to corrosion once they’ve lost their charge. Zinc-carbon batteries are not recyclable.
Carbon zinc batteries are extremely inexpensive but have a very low energy density. Oftentimes, these batteries won’t be able to supply enough power to a high-drain device beyond merely turning it on.
- Inexpensive and easy to find
- Multiple different shapes and sizes are readily available
- Low energy density
- Unable to perform well in extreme temperatures
- Will not be able to efficiently power high drain devices
- Shelf life is 2-3 year
4. Silver Oxide Batteries
Silver oxide batteries are commonly used in wristwatches and other small devices. Because the battery is constructed of real silver, it is often sold only in button cells where the amount of silver is insignificant to the overall cost of the product.
- High energy-to-weight ratio
- Exceptionally long operating life
- Flat construction works well in compact devices
- Provides up to twice the amount of energy capacity compared to similar alkaline button-type batteries
- Expensive material deters use in high-power applications
5. Zinc-Air Batteries
Zinc-air batteries are unique in their construction, as they generate electrical power through exposure to oxygen. These high-capacity button cell batteries are used primarily in hearing aids. They are air-activated, meaning they are ready to use when a factory-sealed tape is removed and oxygen interacts with the zinc in the battery.
These batteries remain in an active state until the power is drained, usually about three years. This makes them unfit for wrist watches, but perfect for hearing aids. Activating the battery requires a user to remove a sealing tab from the battery, enabling airflow.
- High energy density for devices like hearing aids
- Act as a replacement for highly toxic, and mostly obsolete, mercury batteries
- Sensitive to extreme temperatures and humidity
- Dry out once exposed to outside air, reducing battery life
Lithium-ion batteries, also frequently referred to as li-ion, are the most popular and regularly used batteries in today’s world. Although you may not realize what kind of battery powers your mobile phone or laptop, chances are it’s a li-ion battery.
These batteries are a type of rechargeable battery and can be recharged over and over again. They do not require regular maintenance and provide an extremely high energy density. Li-ion batteries are not available in consumer sizes because they could explode if placed in a regular device used to recharge batteries. Instead, they require a special kind of charger with a specific lithium-ion charge algorithm.
- Small and thin with superior energy density; most smartphones use li-ion batteries
- Quick to recharge, and fairly low self-discharge. A Li-ion battery loses less than 5% of its full charge per month, compared to NiMH at up to 20% per month.
- Does not require a prolonged charge when new, compared to other rechargeable batteries. One charge is all you need.
- Maximum performance and efficiency offset high initial costs making it consumer-friendly
- Environmentally friendly and safe
- Not available in regular household sizes
- Requires protection circuit to prevent over-heating and limit voltage
- Overall capacity will slowly deteriorate over time, causing the device to lose its charge quicker
- Use a specific type of charger, requiring a user to purchase one or have one on hand
7. Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) Batteries
Nickel-cadmium (NiCd) batteries are rechargeable packs used primarily with portable electronics, power tools, photography equipment, and hobby remote control vehicles. NiCd batteries can last for an estimated 1,000 cycles – the time it takes to fully recharge and undergo usage – and work best when completely drained prior to recharging. NiCd batteries must be recycled.
NiCd batteries come in standard sizes, like AA, AAA, C, and 9V. NiCd batteries are unique compared to other batteries, such as alkaline, in that they will maintain a steady voltage up until the battery is depleted.
With 1.2V per cell, it does not have a high voltage, but the power delivery makes up for this. For example, you can tell when a flashlight is dying, as the lightbulb will slowly dim. With NiCd batteries, the brightness will remain constant, until the battery’s power is depleted.
- Inexpensive and easy to find
- Low internal resistance ensures the battery charges and discharges quickly
- Delivers at full capacity
- Does not store well over long periods of time
- A full discharge is required before recharging or the battery will lose its capacity
- Over-charging will cause the battery’s capacity to decline
- Contains toxic metals and is not environmentally friendly
- Uses a specific type of charger, requiring a user to purchase one or have one on hand
8. Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) Batteries
Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries, like NiCd batteries, are rechargeable. They are used in familiar electronic devices like smartphones, laptop computers, and portable power tools.
NiMH batteries are popular with consumers because of their performance with heavy-drain devices. They can also operate in devices designed for disposable batteries of the same voltage. NiMH batteries have a shelf life of three to five years.
Although NiMH batteries are labeled as high-density, this can come at the expense of reduced cycle life. They have a high energy density, but can only be recharged about 500 times.
While they will certainly pay for themselves over time, they may not be the best choice for applications like smoke alarms, TV remotes, or clocks. All of these devices draw very low energy, and a NiMH battery is best used within a 30-day period.
Like NiCd batteries, NiMH batteries will deliver at full capacity until almost all of the energy has been discharged.
- High energy-to-volume ratio, compared to NiCd
- Environmentally friendly
- Delivers at full capacity
- Ship in a discharged state and require a full charge before use
- Over-charging will cause the battery’s capacity to decline
- Discharges at a very high rate and must be recharged before use
- Doesn’t perform well in high-rate discharge devices
Different Types of Battery Sizes
Using the right kind of battery makes all the difference in the overall performance and lifespan of your piece of equipment. This guide will break down the various types of common battery sizes so you can get the most use out of your device.
Different battery sizes contribute to the overall effectiveness of your equipment, but it is important to understand why. Generally, the larger the battery is, the more capacity it has for energy storage. So even though a big and small battery are both rated at 1.5V, the big battery stores more energy and provides a longer battery life.
Batteries are extremely useful to us as consumers because they convert stored chemical energy into electrical energy, eliminating the need for a direct power source.
An international standard IEC has imposed a standard size but in Anglo-Saxon countries used the references in letter (AA, C, D, etc.) in other countries using references letter and digit (AA, Lr20, 6Lr61)
Here are the most commonly used batteries in the world matches (actual size):
Also known as “double A”, AA batteries are by far the most popular battery size. Used in a multitude of applications, these batteries can be purchased almost anywhere.
Double-A batteries are generally what everyone pictures when they think of standard replaceable batteries. Used in everything from thermometers and staffing pagers to cordless phones, these batteries are used extensively.
AA batteries measure at 1.5V, and work well for devices that require a somewhat high current draw, but are not in constant use. They can also be used for devices like clocks that are always on but use minimal energy.
Also known as “triple A”, AAA batteries are the second most popular kind of battery. They are used for small toys, thermometers, and calculators.
Triple-A batteries are often used for small electronic devices such as TV remote controls, kitchen timers, graphing calculators, and bathroom scales. AAA batteries, like AA batteries, also measure at 1.5V but generate less energy due to their smaller size.
These batteries are used primarily in small devices that don’t require a lot of energy, like kitchen timers. The batteries will last a long time, while still accomplishing their purpose. These compact batteries also power portion control scales and thermometers.
While “quadruple A”, or AAAA, batteries are not as common as their AA and AAA counterparts, these thin batteries pack a powerful punch.
These small but powerful batteries are often used in LED penlights and laser pointers. They are also frequently used in small devices such as glucose meters, hearing aid remote controls, and powered computer styluses.
These heavy-duty batteries are mainly used for toys, flashlights, and portable radios.
Many automatic hand sanitizer dispensers require the use of these 1.5V batteries. Perfect for heavy-duty applications where batteries require frequent use, you can be sure that your device is operating with safe, reliable power. These batteries are also frequently used in restrooms that utilize battery-powered flush sensors.
Used for devices that require an extended period of power time, these batteries work best in large flashlights, stereos, and hands-free soap or paper towel dispensers.
Powering most automatic paper towel dispensers, D batteries are essential. These large, bulky batteries provide hours of use and power a variety of commercial, heavy-use devices, like hands-free sensor faucets, air freshener systems, and soap dispensers.
Generally known for its rectangular shape, the 9-Volt battery is used in devices that require high voltage and lots of power.
9V batteries work extremely well for devices like infrared thermometers, battery-powered temperature alarms and electronic portion scales. These products may all encounter extreme temperatures from food, walk-in coolers, or other kitchen equipment.
9V batteries are exceptionally durable and offer outstanding performance, working in environments from 0 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
Packed with power, this battery is frequently used for tactical equipment, wireless security, and home automation.
Although significantly shorter in length than a AA battery, the CR123A battery generates 3 volts—twice the voltage of a AA battery. These batteries deliver a huge amount of power while maintaining a relatively small size.
Ideal for devices that require a lot of power, like LED flashlights, they ensure maximum performance. This battery will last longer than most, thanks to its large power-to-size ratio.
This small battery is commonly used in small devices such as garage door openers, specialized medical devices, watches, or remotes.
Delivering 12 volts of power, it is used in applications that require infrequent but powerful bursts of energy. Previously used in photoflash film cameras, these batteries are now used primarily for garage door openers, wireless doorbells, and keyless entry devices.
This small round battery offers a lot of power in a compact size, making it unique compared to most other batteries.
At 3 volts, the CR2032 battery is commonly used in watches, calculators, toys, and different medical devices. These batteries provide long-lasting, reliable power and have a very high weight-to-power ratio. Used in wrist watches and slim, compact thermometers, this battery is practically weightless while providing hours of use.
12V; 12 Volt Battery
Large, block-shaped, and heavy, this battery provides hundreds of amps of electrical current and is commonly used in cars and other industrial equipment. Compared to some of the bigger voltage batteries, it might not make sense that a car is able to function with only 12 volts while other heavy equipment requires much more than just 12 volts.
This is because heavy equipment and cordless power tools all require a charge after their energy has been depleted. Cars use an alternator that acts as a generator to keep the car battery-powered, eliminating the need for an external charger.
22V; 22 Volt Battery
At 22 volts, this battery is used to power heavy equipment and high-power cordless tools like drills and electric saws. Because cordless power tools are compact but require a great deal of energy, 22V batteries are perfect for the job. They deliver high power for an extended period of time, such as when installing electrical appliances.
44V; 44 Volt Battery
With an enormous voltage rating of 44 volts, this battery powers equipment that consumes power, like cordless power washers, leaf blowers, and self-propelled lawn mowers. All of these use up a huge amount of energy because not only are they in constant use, but they are also high-powered.
|YYYY||8.4 mm||40.5 mm||6.5 g|
|1/2 AAA||10.0 mm||22.0 mm||5.3 g|
|2/3 AAA||10.0 mm||29.0 mm||7.3 g|
|4/5 AAA||10.5 mm||36.0 mm||9.3 g|
|AAA||10.5 mm||45.0 mm||13 g|
|1/3 N||11.5 mm||11.5 mm||3.5 g|
|1/2 N||11.5 mm||18.0 mm||5.3 g|
|N||11.5 mm||29.0 mm||8.6 g|
|AA||14.5 mm||48.0 mm||26 g|
|1/2 TO THE||17.0 mm||22.0 mm||14 g|
|2/3 TO THE||17.0 mm||28.7 mm||22 g|
|4/5 TO THE||17.0 mm||43.0 mm||31 g|
|TO THE||17.0 mm||50.0 mm||37 g|
|4/3 TO THE||17.0 mm||67.5 mm||62 g|
|6F22||17.5 mm||48.5 mm||39 g|
|4/5 SC||23.0 mm||34.0 mm||46 g|
|SC||23.0 mm||43.0 mm||53 g|
|C||25.5 mm||50.0 mm||72 g|
|D||32.0 mm||61.0 mm||140 g|
|F||33.0 mm||91.0 mm||230 g|
Battery Storage and Disposal Tips
- Store batteries at room temperature. Excessive heat or cold makes a battery wear out faster.
- Do not store with coins, paper clips, or other metal objects. Batteries may short-circuit and heat up.
- Remove batteries from devices you don’t use all the time. This extends their operating life.
- Replace all batteries at the same time.
- Don’t mix old and new batteries. This may cause them to leak or rupture.
- Avoid mixing and matching batteries from different manufacturers in the same device.
- Alkaline batteries such as D, C, AA, AAA, and 9-volt can be disposed of in your regular trash.
- Make sure to prevent any fire risk by taping 9-volt terminals before tossing.
- NiCd batteries containing lead must be properly recycled to prevent environmental hazards.
- Consider bringing old batteries to a local battery recycling drop-off.
Not sure if the battery is recyclable? Look on the side of the battery and see if it says “Battery Must Be Recycled” or if it has a recycling symbol.