The United States, China, and India are the primary contributors to the battery market worldwide. The electrical power of batteries is more commonly recognized as household power and small devices. The majority of these batteries are sold in retail stores and consist of Alkaline or Zinc-Carbon batteries.
These two batteries are thrown away when their life span is over, so they are not as eco-friendly as their rechargeable counterparts like the Nickel-metal Hydride (NiMH) and Lithium-ion Polymer (LiPo) batteries.
NiMH and LiPo batteries are also advantageous due to their longer life-span and reusability even in devices that require high-density usage. Additional batteries that are particularly pertinent today are as follows:
- Lead-acid – The first rechargeable battery in the market, and cost-efficient. Vehicles use this battery most often.
- Flow – Used by the solar and wind industry. It uses electrolyte liquids for backup power, and its power can last for years.
- Zinc-manganese Dioxide – A standard battery. Flashlights are commonly powered by this battery.
- Nickel-cadmium (Ni-CD) – Nickel-cadmium batteries have a very long operating life as evident in its use in electric toothbrushes, power tools, and in larger devices like computers, etc.
- Nickel–Zinc (Ni-Zn) – These batteries provide a low charge with a relatively high power life for small gadgets and older cars.
Batteries can be daunting due to their many different features, but, generally, they can be thought under the following specifications:
- Voltage – Voltage is the difference between a negatively-charged and positively-charged object (zebu.uoregon.edu). Measured in Volts (V), often compared to water pressure. The nominal voltage is, “the reported or reference voltage of the battery…thought of as the ‘normal’ voltage” (MIT). Other common terms are the cut-off voltage and the charge voltage.
- Capacity – Measured in Ampere hour (Ah) or milliAmpere hour (mAh). Ampere in batteries relates to how much electrical current or electrons are flowing through a circuit at any given time. Battery capacity itself stands for the capacity of the cell in Ah or Mah, or how long a battery can supply an electrical current.
- Power capacity – Often measured in Watt-hours (Wh), a measure of power, and it reflects how much energy is stored in the battery. A battery’s Wh is obtained by multiplying the Voltage (V) and how much current (Amps) the battery can provide.
- Energy density – “The nominal battery energy per unit volume…Along with the energy consumption of [a] vehicle, it determines the battery size required to achieve a given electrical range” (MIT).
Battery technology continues to grow as seen by the many devices of all sizes and across various industries being created. As we speak, batteries are constantly being researched to improve in the following areas:
- Recharging at an instant and continuously;
- Improving batteries’ life-spans (days instead of hours);
- Partnering with solar and wind innovations;
- Holding longer charging capabilities;
- Being smaller in size and lighter in weight with greater electron power.
All batteries carry a safety risk, but LiPo batteries, in particular, are often showcased in the news or social media with explosive results. When the soft, thin aluminum material of a LiPo battery is breached or damaged in some way, oxygen is introduced to the volatile Lithium ions within, and fires can come about.
Despite the probable dangers, LiPo batteries are fast becoming the best batteries on the market today. The added benefits of its small size, different shapes, lightweight, and high energy density are but a few reasons for why LiPo batteries continue to hold such importance.
Furthermore, batteries in general are a dependable power source for any and all devices ranging from small hand-held devices to small appliances, etc. Even backup generators, which typically use diesel, propane, or some kind of natural gas, are starting to use batteries. They are great as an uninterrupted power system (UPS) since they are eco-friendly, noiseless, and fuel or fumeless.
Overall, battery-driven products are being moved forward by research and development solutions that are making batteries more durable, safer, portable, flexible, long-lasting, etc.
“Electricity Fundamentals.” http://zebu.uoregon.edu/disted/ph162/lec04.html.
MIT Electric Vehicle Team (2008). A Guide to Understanding Battery Specifications [PDF file].
Retrieved from http://web.mit.edu/evt/summary_battery_specifications.pdf