3 October 2014

Primary Batteries – What Are The Choices Part 1

Earlier on, batteries were primarily used for carrying out experiments. This is because fluctuations in voltage under load made the use of batteries for most applications impractical. The improved battery developed by John F. Daniell in 1836 delivered current in a more stable manner. This battery was used as the power source for telegraph networks in those days when electrical distribution networks were non-existent. These batteries are non-rechargeable and are referred to as primary batteries. The rechargeable battery (lead-acid battery) was invented in 1859 by Gaston Planté, a French physician.

Leclanché battery that had carbon and zinc electrodes was one among the commercially viable batteries that were initially developed. The Leclanché cell made in 1876 was the wet type. Dry type Leclanché cells were developed in 1886. In 1898, carbon-zinc batteries for flashlights were introduced. This development led to the formation of the battery company Eveready. Carbon-zinc batteries are the least expensive and are often provided along with consumer products. These are general purpose batteries and are used for applications that require only a low power drain. They are used in remote controls, children’s toys, wall clocks and flashlights.

Alkaline-manganese batteries (also referred to as just alkaline batteries), invented by Lewis Urry in 1949 when working with Eveready Laboratory located in Parma, Ohio, are one of the commonly available consumer primary batteries. Alkaline batteries are capable of delivering more power at higher loads than carbon-zinc batteries. Although alkaline batteries are not completely leak-proof, they never leak when depleted. Alkaline batteries generate hydroxide gases at the time of discharging. Therefore, the seal gets ruptured if there is a buildup of pressure. This causes corrosion resembling feathery crystalline structures. They can spread and cause damage to the nearby parts as well. In fact, all of the primary batteries produce gases at the time of discharge. It is because of this reason that portable devices in which these batteries are used come with a provision for venting.

Li-FeS2 (Lithium Iron Disulfide) is a new primary battery family member. It provides improved performance. Typically, a lithium battery delivers 3 volts or more. However, Li-FeS2 batteries provide 1.5 volts and are considered as an alternative to carbon-zinc and alkaline in AAA and AA formats. They have low internal resistance compared to their alkaline counterparts and higher capacity. As they are capable of handling moderate to high loads, they are frequently used in digital cameras. Other advantages offered by Li-FeS2 batteries include improved low-temperature performance, low self-discharge and superior leakage resistance. They can be stored for 15 years at ambient temperatures. Minimal toxicity and low weight are other benefits offered by these batteries.

Air transportation problems due to the presence of lithium metal in the anode and higher prices are some of the disadvantages of these batteries. In 2004, Federal Aviation Administration and US DOT banned shipments of these primary batteries in bulk on passenger flights. However, passengers can carry them in checked bags or on board. The lithium content in each of the AA format batteries is 0.98 grams. The weight limit prescribed in the case of lithium batteries in air transport is 2 grams. For Li-ion batteries that are rechargeable, it is 8 grams). Therefore, each passenger is allowed to carry only 2 cells. However, exception to the rule can be sought and passengers can carry up to 12 batteries as samples.

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