D42.2 Commercial Batteries

Many of the devices we use every day, such as laptops and smartphones, are powered by batteries. A battery is an electrochemical cell or series of cells that produces an electric current. In principle, any voltaic cell can be used as a battery. An ideal battery would never run down/drain, produce a constant voltage, and be capable of withstanding environmental extremes of temperature and humidity. Real batteries strike a balance between ideal characteristics and practical limitations.

For example, the mass of a car-starter battery is about 18 kg or ~1% of the mass of an average car. This type of battery would supply nearly unlimited energy if used in a smartphone, but would be completely impractical because of its mass and size. Thus, no single battery is “best” and different batteries are selected for particular applications, keeping things like mass, cost, reliability, and current capacity in mind.

There are two basic types of batteries: primary and secondary. A few batteries of each type are described next.

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Chemistry 109 Fall 2021 by John Moore, Jia Zhou, and Etienne Garand is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.