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Battery Basics, Safety & Market Information

Types of Batteries

NICKEL CADMIUM BATTERIES

The active components of a rechargeable NiCd battery in the charged state consist of nickel hydroxide (NiOOH) in the positive electrode and cadmium (Cd) in the negative electrode. For the electrolyte, potassium hydroxide (KOH) is normally used. Due to their low internal resistance and the very good current conducting properties, NiCd batteries can supply extremely high currents and can be recharged rapidly. These cells are capable of sustaining temperatures down to -20°C. The selection of the separator (nylon or polypropylene) and the electrolyte (KOH, LiOH, NaOH) influence the voltage conditions in the case of a high current discharge, the service life and the overcharging capability. In the case of misuse, a very high-pressure may arise quickly. For this reason, cells require a safety valve. NiCd cells generally offer a long service life thereby ensuring a high degree of economy.

NICKEL METAL HYDRIDE BATTERIES

The active components of a rechargeable NiMH battery in the charged state consist of nickel hydroxide (NiOOH) in the positive electrode and a hydrogen storing metal alloy (MH) in the negative electrode as well as a potassium hydroxide (KOH) electrolyte.  Compared to rechargeable NiCd batteries, NiMH batteries have a higher energy density per volume and weight.

LITHIUM ION BATTERIES

The term lithium ion battery refers to a rechargeable battery where the negative electrode (anode) and positive electrode (cathode) materials serve as a host for the lithium ion (Li+).  Lithium ions move from the anode to the cathode during discharge and are intercalated into (inserted into voids in the crystallographic structure of) the cathode. The ions reverse direction during charging.  Since lithium ions are intercalated into host materials during charge or discharge, there is no free lithium metal within a lithium-ion cell.  In a lithium ion cell, alternating layers of anode and cathode are separated by a porous film (separator). An electrolyte composed of an organic solvent and dissolved lithium salt provides the media for lithium ion transport.  For most commercial lithium ion cells, the voltage range is approximately 3.0 V (discharged, or 0 % state-of-charge, SOC) to 4.2 V (fully charged, or 100% SOC).

SMALL SEALED LEAD ACID BATTERIES

Rechargeable small sealed lead acid (SSLA) batteries, which are valve-regulated lead acid batteries, (VRLA batteries) do not require regular addition of water to the cells, and vent less gas than flooded (wet) lead-acid batteries.SSLA batteries are sometimes referred to as “maintenance free” batteries.  The reduced venting is an advantage since they can be used in confined or poorly ventilated spaces.

There are two types of VRLA batteries,

  • Absorbed glass mat (AGM) battery
  • Gel battery (“gel cell”)

An absorbed glass mat battery has the electrolyte absorbed in a fiber-glass mat separator. A gel cell has the electrolyte mixed with silica dust to form an immobilized gel.

SSLA batteries include a safety pressure relief valve. As opposed to flooded batteries, a SSLA battery is designed not to spill its electrolyte if it is inverted.