How do Batteries Work?
- Katherine D. Rodriguez
Inadvertently, Alessandro Volta created the first battery in 1800. He was trying to prove to a colleague scientist that animal tissue could be used to create an electric current. Volta won his debate and more. Volta was awarded many honours for his unanticipated invention of the electrochemical cells. He remained modest, however.
Volta’s name was immortalized on stamps and the 10,000 Italian Lire banknote. These items were discontinued in 2002. Volta’s name is still remembered by others who named the volt after his work, which we use to measure electric currents.
What was it that Volta found that made the battery function? We’ll be answering many frequently asked questions in this article.
How Do Batteries Work?
The majority of people take batteries for granted. They are a part of our daily lives and go unnoticed while they store energy. You can think of flashlights, cell phones and remote controls as well as hearing aids, car batteries, electric cars, and even cell phones.
Have you ever taken the time to understand how these essential products provide instant, portable energy? Batteries are small, self-contained power supplies that store and convert chemical energy into electrical energy. This process is called electrochemistry. Let’s dive into the details about what batteries are made to explain how they work.
What Are Batteries Made Of?
A battery will usually consist of several electrochemical cells. There are two types of batteries: the voltaic, also known as galvanic, and the electrolytic.
- Galvanic and Voltaic Cells: These cells get energy from spontaneous redox reaction. These cells convert chemical energy into electrical energy.
- Electrolytic cells: These cells obtain energy from an external electron source, such as an AC power source or direct current (DC). These cells convert electrical energy into chemical energy.
Let’s take an example of each type of cell. The battery functions as an electrolytic cell when it is connected to a charger for a rechargeable device, such as your tablet or cell phone. The battery functions as an electrolytic cell while you are using your electronic device.
To produce electricity, a standard battery cell needs the following elements:
- Anode: The negative electrode of a battery or the negative terminal is called the anode. It is also the site for oxidation. It is also an electrolytic cell’s positive electrode. Metals such as zinc and lithium are often used as anodes. This paste is found in a part called the separator. The separator is used to prevent short circuits between the positive and negative electrodes.
- Cathode is the positive terminal or electrode of a battery. It is also an electrolytic cell’s negative electrode. The cathode is composed of silvery matte rings of metallic oxides such as graphite or manganese dioxide.
- The chemical substance that separates the anode from the cathode is called the electrolyte. It is a chemical catalyst that forms a liquid or paste between the electrodes. This makes the battery conductive. It acts as an ion transporter between the cathode and anode of the cell. Here, the battery’s chemical energy is transformed into electrical energy. The major electrolytes are potassium hydroxide and sodium.
The battery has two metals, the anode (and cathode), attached at opposite ends. This allows for a chemical reaction between the electrolyte, the metals, which allows more electrons to be released through one metal.
If the metal receives more electrons, a positive charge is formed. The opposite side will then develop a negative charge. When a wire or an external circuit connects the battery ends to one another, the electron flow moves through the wire. This balances the electrical charge and produces an electric current.
The last step is to add an electrical load. It is any device that requires electricity to function. Let’s take a flashlight for an example. You create a circuit by connecting the flashlight’s batteries to the switch and turning it on. The circuit connects the flashlight to the wire. This allows electrical energy to flow through both the bulb and the wire as electrons pass through its negative end, through it, and back to its positive end.
Are Batteries Capacitors?
Over the years, energy storage has advanced significantly. Batteries and capacitors are the two main ways we store energy today. They are very similar but not identical. Let’s examine the similarities and differences.
What are the Similarities between Batteries and Capacitors
These are the main differences between capacitors and batteries:
- The stored energy creates an electric potential, also known as voltage.
- An electric potential creates an electron flow, which is called an electric current.
- An electric current can produce electrical energy that is used to power circuit components.
Based on the product’s function and design, engineers will decide whether to use a capacitor or a battery. Sometimes they use a combination of both. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they can be interchangeable.
What Are the Differences Between Batteries & Capacitors?
These are the main differences in batteries and capacitors.
- Comparing a battery to a capacitor of the exact same volume will show that the battery has thousands more energy storage capacity than the capacitor.
- Batteries provide energy in a steady stream and are reliable.
- Capacitors are often able to provide energy bursts faster than batteries.
- Capacitors can store energy in an electric field, which makes them rechargeable. Batteries, on the other hand, store energy in a chemical field and are often not rechargeable.
- Capacitors are more resilient than batteries, and can hold charge longer.
- Simple capacitors are often made from non-toxic materials, making them safe to throw away.
Do Batteries Generate Alternating Current (AC) or Direct Current (DC)?
Alternating current (AC), a flow electrons that changes direction frequently, often many times per second, is what we call alternating current. AC power is the most common type of household appliance. For example, most of our appliances, including microwaves, coffee makers, dishwashers, TVs, and HVAC systems, run on alternating current. Because electrons from batteries flow in only one direction, they generate direct current (DC). Many portable devices like flashlights, cell phones and mp3 players run on DC power from batteries.