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Battery Explained: Types of Batteries and Their Applications

March 27, 2023

Different Types of Batteries: Uses and Applications

Batteries are an essential part of everyday life, powering a huge array of items, from small devices to cars. They come in different shapes and sizes, all with their own uses and applications. And it can be confusing to figure out which of the types of battery is best suited for your needs.

Read on to learn the various types of batteries and their common uses and applications. Below, you will find the kinds commonly used in home electronics, automobiles, and more. Tips on choosing the right battery, maintenance and storage advice are also provided!

Batteries Explained

Quick history. An Italian physicist, Alessandro Volta, invented the first battery in 1800. Since then, battery technology has been experienced and used around the world.

Batteries are devices that store and release electrical energy through a chemical reaction. They are composed of one or more cells, each containing the following:

  • positive electrode
  • negative electrode
  • electrolyte

When a battery is connected to a circuit, a chemical reaction occurs between the + and – electrodes. The stored chemical energy is then generated into an electrical current.

The cell

By now, you know how capable a battery is when it comes to supplying electric power. What you might not know is the underlying component inside it. Known as the cell, it plays a major part in producing voltage and current.

A cell contains three main components: two electrodes and an electrolyte. Electrodes have two types, and these are the anode and cathode. The anode is the negative electrode, whereas the cathode is the positive one.

When the anode loses electrons to the external circuit, it gets oxidised. Once the cathode accepts electrons from the internal circuit, it gets reduced. This is where energy conversion happens in a battery. It is due to the electrochemical oxidation-reduction reaction of a cell component.

The third element is the electrolyte. It acts as the medium for transferring charge in the form of ions between two electrodes. It is not electrically conductive but is an ionic conductive.

Other terms for:

  • Anode = Fuel Electrode or the Reducing Electrode
  • Cathode = Oxidising Electrode
  • Electrolyte = Ionic Conductor

Overall, the cells in a battery provide the necessary voltage and current levels.

Types of Batteries

Electrochemical cells and batteries are categorised into two types. Although there are several other classifications, these two are the basics:

  • Primary (non-rechargeable)
  • Secondary (rechargeable)

Primary batteries are non-rechargeable ones. This means they cannot be recharged with electricity. The secondary batteries, in contrast, work otherwise. They are ideal for recharging in electric form.

Primary batteries

A primary battery is a convenient power source for portable electronics and devices. This includes radios, watches, toys, lights, and cameras. It is inexpensive, lightweight, and convenient to use with no maintenance.

However, primary batteries cannot be recharged once they run out of power. This makes them a type of “discard immediately when discharged” battery. In short, they cannot be used again.

They usually come cylindrical, such as alkaline batteries. This type of primary battery is a chemical composed of zinc (Zn) and manganese dioxide (MnO2).

It got its name from the electrolyte used in it: potassium hydroxide – a pure alkaline substance. An alkaline battery has a power density of 100 Wh/kg.

Other shapes and sizes of a primary battery include a coin/button shaped one, a.k.a. coin cell batteries. They are often used in torches, remotes, wall clocks, small portable gadgets, and more.

The chemical composition of a coin cell battery is also alkaline. But it also contains lithium and silver oxide chemicals. These compounds make this small battery more efficient, providing steady and stable voltage. It has a power density of 270 Wh/kg.

Secondary batteries

The main advantage of these batteries is that they can be recharged and reused. Hence why they are also known as rechargeable batteries.

Secondary batteries usually cost more than primary ones. But considering they are rechargeable, they can have a longer lifespan. They can be used in two applications:

In the first application, secondary batteries supply and store energy. Take UPS, a battery backup, for example. It provides reserve power when your regular power source fails. This device is often used for computers.

As for the second application, rechargeable batteries also work for portable electronics like:

  • Mobiles
  • Laptops
  • Electric vehicles

Once completely or almost discharged, they can be recharged with a charging mechanism. For example, smartphone batteries. Most models have a lithium-ion battery that lives longer when charged often.

This type of battery acts as their main power source, their primary one. But unlike the standard primary batteries, lithium-ion is rechargeable and reusable. So instead of discarding it, you pull out your charger and then plug it into a socket to charge it.

Another great example is the lead-acid batteries found in most cars and vehicles. A lead-acid battery works by powering the lighting systems in a car. It comes with a nominal voltage starting from 2V to 24V with a 7 Wh/kg power density.

Other major types of rechargeable batteries include:

  • Nickel-Cadmium Batteries. One of the oldest battery types available today. They have a very long life and are very reliable and sturdy.
  • Nickel-Metal Hydride Batteries. An extended version of Nickel-Hydrogen Electrode Batteries. Ideal use in aerospace applications such as satellites.

Types of Batteries and Their Applications

Both primary and secondary batteries are essential in powering our modern world. They are used in a lot of devices and appliances, such as:

  • Portable electronic devices: Smartphones, watches, cameras, laptops, calculators, including testing equipment like multimeters.
  • Entertainment: Radios, MP3 and CD players, infrared remote controls, toys and games, etc.
  • Household: Smoke detectors, alarms, clocks, UPS, portable power tools, and more.

Battery Chargers

Rechargeable batteries have a complementary device that keeps them going – battery chargers. A battery charger is designed to provide a safe, consistent charge to batteries.

If you are using secondary-type batteries, you can rely on these chargers. Click the cells in the charging device, plug them in, and they will be good as new in a few hours – and ready to use again!

The Bottom Line: Living in a Battery-Centric World

Battery technology has come a long way over the decades; we are living in a battery-centric world. We depend on these ‘power to-go’ for the ubiquitous devices we use every day. From smartphones and laptops to electric vehicles, solar systems and other electronics.

Batteries enable continuous usage of these gizmos without the need for constant charging. This makes them extremely convenient! Furthermore, advances in battery technology have enabled them to become smaller and lighter. All that while still providing high capacity and long-term reliability.

Without batteries, many electronics would not be as accessible as they are today.


This article was originally published in June 2021 and has been updated.

© Wiltronics Research Pty Ltd 2023

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