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Different Battery Types and Chemistries

Power - by Joe Weber - updated on 1/3/2023

Two Duracell Ultra and two X2Power batteries

Whether you work in the battery industry or are just a homeowner with a lot of battery-powered gear, you will most likely come across several different types of batteries in your lifetime. Batteries have quickly become an important source of power for countless devices from watches and video games to cars, trucks and solar energy systems.

The Basics

Before we delve into the different types of batteries out in the world there are a few basics that we need to cover first.

What Is a Battery?

A battery is a chemical device that stores electrical energy. This electrical energy is produced by chemical and electrochemical reactions. This electrochemical reaction involves the transfer of electrons from one material to another, called electrodes, through a conductor. The generated electric current is then stored in batteries as direct current (DC) energy for everyday use.

Fun Fact!

The first battery, called the Voltaic Pile, was invented in 1800 by Italian Physicist Alessandro Volta  . This first-generation "battery" was created using alternating zinc and copper disks with brine-soaked cardboard separating each layer.

What's the Difference Between a Cell and a Battery?

A cell consists of two electrodes (an Anode and a Cathode) and an electrolyte solution. It also consists of terminals, a separator and a container to hold it all together.

  • The Anode, the negative electrode, loses electrons and during the electrochemical process, it gets oxidized.
  • The Cathode, positive electrode, accepts electrons and during the electrochemical process is reduced. The energy conversion in a battery is due to this electrochemical reaction.
  • The third important component of a cell is the electrolyte, also known as the conductor. The electrolyte acts as a means to transfer the charge in the form of ions between the two electrodes.

In its simplest form, a cell is a single unit that converts chemical energy into electrical energy and a battery is a collection of 1 or more cells contained in a casing to be used. For example, an AA alkaline battery has only one cell whereas a 12V lead acid battery will be made up of 6 individual cells.

Different Types of Batteries

There are essentially two types of batteries: primary and secondary.

  • Primary batteries are single-use batteries that cannot be recharged, are usually the most cost effective and the easiest to find at everyday retailers.
  • Secondary batteries are rechargeable batteries that can be used over and over by using a battery charger.

Even though there are other classifications within both of these types of batteries, these are the two basic types.

Common Primary Batteries

Single-use batteries are available in many different varieties. Primary batteries are generally the more inexpensive and readily available batteries on the market. It's hard to go to a store and not find AA or AAA batteries. The chemistries below are the most common types available. Lithium batteries are starting to become wildly popular but what makes them so different from alkaline? Read all about these two types of batteries in "What are the Differences Between Lithium and Alkaline Batteries?".

Chemistry Uses
Alkaline Most battery-operated household and business items
Zinc – Carbon Toys, radios, instruments
Silver Oxide Watches, calculators, hearing aids and more
Zinc Air Hearing aids, medical devices, pagers and more
Lithium BR Photoelectric sensors, measurement sensors, memory backup, tracking devices and more
Lithium CR Watches, vehicle key fobs, garage door openers and much more
Lithium thionyl chloride Timers, toll systems, metering devices and more low-current extended-use devices

Common Secondary Batteries

Secondary batteries, commonly referred to as rechargeable batteries, are everywhere. They're in your home, your car or truck, your office, and even the cell phone in your pocket. Secondary batteries are usually a little more expensive than single-use batteries and can sometimes be a little harder to find when you need a specific battery to fit your device. See below for the four most common rechargeable batteries and their uses.

Chemistry Uses
Lead Acid Cars and trucks, energy storage, medical equipment, emergency power, communications systems, emergency lighting and more
Nickel Cadmium Many household devices like power tools, camcorders, telephones
Nickel Metal Hydride Electric razors, toothbrushes, cameras, camcorders, mobile phones, pagers, medical equipment and more
Lithium-Ion Electric mobility, energy storage, power sport and marine applications, smartphones, tablets, laptops and many more consumer electronics

How Do I Choose the Best Battery?

Sometimes you may have the option to use more than one chemistry battery for your device. While some devices will have one and only one option, when you do have other options it's important to consider the following factors before you make your choice.

  • Primary or Secondary - Are single-use batteries required or are there rechargeable battery options available?
  • Energy or Power - Do the batteries have different capacities? Will one provide more power to your devices than the other?
  • Shelf Life - How long will single-use batteries sit on a shelf or in a drawer before they can no longer be used? How long can the rechargeable batteries sit without needing to be recharged?
  • Battery Life - Does one battery advertise a longer running time or longer length between charges than another?

Where Can I Find Replacement Batteries for My Devices?

As you can see, there are a lot of different kinds of batteries available. But, where can you go to find all of these batteries? Your local Batteries Plus is your home to the largest selection of batteries around. Stop in today to see our extensive selection of batteries for all of your needs. From cars and trucks to cell phones and kids riding toys, we have it all.

We're in the middle of winter and you still need to use your batteries even when it's cold. Read our helpful article "How To Protect Your Battery Against Extreme Weather" to learn how to protect and keep your car batteries warm in the winter months.

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