Get a basic understanding of how batteries work.
Nowadays, people cannot leave home without their smartphones, laptops, and tablets. A vacation is never complete without these “essentials.” Some of us even have drones and game consoles. It does not matter if you are a young professional, a retiree, or a teen – you must have at least one of these gadgets.
What is the common denominator between these gadgets? They can be used on the go for a period of time. They all have batteries that you can recharge. But do you know how these batteries store energy so that you can use them when you are away from home or the office?
What is a battery?
A battery is a device that can store chemical energy and then convert it into electrical energy when you need it. It contains at least one electrochemical cell where chemical reactions take place. This creates a flow of electrons in a circuit, providing the electric current needed for the battery to work.
Every battery has a cathode (the positive side), an anode (the negative side), and a type of electrolyte that reacts with both of them chemically.
What are the common types of batteries?
Mobile phones, laptop computers, game consoles and some electric vehicles have rechargeable batteries. Two of the most commonly used rechargeable battery types are lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries.
1. Lead-acid batteries
Lead-acid batteries are the first rechargeable batteries ever invented. Frenchman Gaston Planté created the first prototype of a rechargeable battery based on lead-acid chemistry in 1860. Scientists later developed it in the mid-1800s using old technology to store chemical energy to be converted to electricity.
How do lead-acid batteries store energy?
Each 12-volt lead-acid battery contains six cells, with each cell containing a mixture of water and sulfuric acid. Each cell has a negative and a positive side. When the battery generates power, it also discharges at the same time.
The chemical reaction breaks down the sulfuric acid into the water stored in each cell, thus, diluting the acid. When the battery is used to power a device, it depletes the acid, hence this equation: Pb(s) + HSO−4(aq) → PbSO4(s) + H+(aq) + 2e−
This chemical equation refers to the negative plate or anode reaction that releases electrons. For example, the HSO-4 is the hydrogen sulphate anion that forms sulfuric acid when mixed with water. It is the acid that is consumed when releasing hydrogen ions and electrons.
What happens when we charge up a lead-acid battery?
When the battery is charging up, the process reverses. This means that instead of consuming the acid, the battery’s charging builds it back up. Lead-acid batteries use this process to store energy. All types of lead-acid batteries use this process to store chemical energy.
2. Lithium-Ion batteries
Like lead-acid batteries, lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries also have a cathode (positive side) and an anode (negative side). They are also capable of storing lithium ions. Energy is stored and released when these lithium ions move from the cathode to the anode through the electrolyte.
Whilst lead-acid batteries use only one type of chemical reaction, lithium-ion batteries have different chemistries and usage. Some of the most common lithium battery types include:
Lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2)
Also known as LCO, lithium cobalt oxide batteries can provide power over a long period under low-load applications. However, they do not perform well in high-load applications. As a result, they are commonly used in small portable devices such as mobile phones, laptops, tablets and cameras. But because cobalt is expensive and has safety concerns, LCO batteries are being replaced by other types of lithium batteries.
Lithium manganese oxide (LiMn2O4)
Known as LMO, these batteries utilise lithium manganese oxide for their cathode. It creates a three-dimensional structure that improves ion flow, increases current handling and lowers internal resistance. LMO batteries also have improved thermal stability, which means they can operate safely even at high temperatures. Additionally, they charge quickly and can handle long-life or high-load applications. They are primarily used in medical instruments, portable power tools and some electric and hybrid vehicles.
Lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (LiNiMnCoO2)
Known as NMC, these batteries use nickel, manganese and cobalt in the cathode to store and convert energy. The combination of these elements produces high specific energy and stable chemistry. Moreover, they are cheaper than cobalt-based batteries and have a longer lifespan.
NMC batteries are commonly found in electronic powertrains for scooters, e-bikes and electric vehicles, as well as in power tools.
Lithium nickel cobalt aluminium oxide (LiNiCoAlO2)
Known as NCA, these batteries perform well in high-load applications and have a long-life cycle. NCA batteries are commonly found in electric vehicles.
Lithium titanate (Li2TiO3)
In lithium titanate (LTO) batteries, the graphite in the anode is replaced with lithium titanate. They utilise NMC or LMO for the cathode. This combination yields an extremely safe battery. LTO batteries charge faster than any other lithium battery and have a longer life cycle. They are popular in electric vehicles and their charging stations, solar and wind energy storage, solar street lights, uninterrupted power supplies and telecommunications systems. They can also be found on military and aerospace equipment.
Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4)
Lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries work similarly to other Li-ion batteries. However, unlike cobalt oxide and manganese oxide, phosphate is non-toxic, eliminating the issue of health hazards and safety.
LFP batteries can deliver constant voltage at a higher charge cycle. These batteries are chemically and thermally stable, meaning they are less prone to fires or explosions. This is why more manufacturers of electric and hybrid cars are switching to LFP batteries.
Make JPAC your preferred battery provider.
For all things battery, you can count on us to provide the best products and services. JPAC Batteries has over 40 years of hands-on and management experience within our team. Our team specialises in the installation, maintenance, testing, and disposal of industrial stationary batteries. Send us a message, and we will get in touch with you. You can also email or call us on 0422 629 870.