10 Types of Batteries and their Uses(Pros & Cons)

Portable devices have become a vital part of our lives as they offer us the convenience of being able to take them with us wherever we go. Batteries power all these devices, making them completely portable. The type of battery used depends on the device and application. For example, a laptop would require a different type of battery(shape and size) than a smartphone.

How many types of electric batteries are there?

Batteries are broadly classified into primary batteries and secondary batteries. The primary batteries are for one-time use only as they cannot be recharged. Whereas, the secondary batteries are rechargeable. Both types are further classified into different batteries.

Difference between AA & AAA Bat...
Difference between AA & AAA Battery

Both types are further classified into different batteries depending on the chemicals used in them. For example, a lead-acid battery used in vehicles is a secondary battery, and the zinc-carbon batteries used in flashlights are primary batteries. There are also lithium-ion batteries, which are a type of rechargeable or secondary battery.

Different battery types have different advantages and disadvantages. For example, lead-acid batteries are very durable but require regular maintenance, while lithium-ion batteries have a high energy density but are more expensive. Ultimately, the type of battery that is best for a particular application depends on a number of factors, including cost, weight, size, and required shelf life. Given below is the list of the types of batteries that are most commonly used.

  • Primary Battery
    1. Lithium battery
    2. Alkaline battery
    3. Carbon-Zinc battery
    4. Silver Oxide battery
    5. Zinc air battery
  • Secondary Battery
    1. Lithium-ion battery
    2. Nickel Cadmium battery
    3. Nickel Metal hydride battery
    4. Lead acid battery
    5. Rechargeable alkaline battery

This article discusses all these battery types in detail.

What are Primary Batteries?

A primary battery is a type of battery that cannot be recharged and must be discarded once its power is depleted. The most common type of primary battery is the disposable dry cell, which is used in a wide variety of applications, from flashlights to watches.

Primary batteries are convenient because they are ready to use out of the box, but their limited lifespan can be costly in the long run. It is non-rechargeable because the chemical reactions that happened in it are irreversible and the chemicals cannot return to their original form.

The key advantages of primary batteries are they are cheap, lightweight, easily available, have less maintenance, and come in several configurations. They are usually used in devices with low current drain.

The major disadvantage of primary batteries is that they cannot be reused. Also, these batteries have comparatively less capacity.

Still, primary batteries are very commonly used around us. The best example is remote controls and other lightweight portable devices.

What are the types of Primary batteries?

There are many different types of primary batteries but the most common ones along with their features and applications are discussed below.

Read also: Important Battery Terms & Characteristics Explained (with Examples)

Lithium Batteries

Lithium batteries offer the highest capacity among all primary batteries. The active anode material in these batteries is lithium, thus the name. It covers numerous other advantages such as lightweight, long shelf life, appropriate to use in extreme temperatures, high specific energy, etc. Also known as Lithium-metal battery.

Lithium Batteries
Lithium Batteries

Due to safety concerns, these batteries are mostly available in small sizes as button-sized cells. They are highly flammable and should be disposed of with extreme care. The larger sizes are only used in military applications.

Used in – Mainly in pacemakers. Clocks and Cameras.

Note: Do not confuse Lithium battery with Lithium ion battery, which is a type of secondary battery.

Alkaline Batteries

Alkaline batteries are the most widely used primary battery type. The chemical composition of alkaline batteries is zinc alkaline manganese dioxide. These are the most commonly available primary battery for households. These are widely used in low-current drain portable devices like remote controls.

Alkaline Batteries
Alkaline Batteries

It has an excellent shelf life and high capacity. Another notable benefit of an alkaline battery is that it is available in several different shapes, sizes, and capacities. Leakage is a limitation of alkaline batteries. It is also not suitable for high current applications.

Used in – Electronic toys, radios, digital cameras, flashlights, and MP3 players.

Carbon Zinc Battery

A carbon Zinc battery was once a popular primary battery type that uses zinc as an anode and a carbon rod as a cathode. The ammonium chloride solution is used in paste form as the electrolyte. It is thus called a “dry cell”. Carbon Zinc is also called “heavy-duty cells”. These are the cheapest primary battery.

Carbon Zinc Batteries
Carbon Zinc Batteries

Since they offer less power, they are commonly used in household applications like remotes and clocks. Carbon Zinc batteries are available in almost all variety of sizes and are easily available. These are nowadays mostly replaced by alkaline batteries.

Less shelf life is a limitation. It is not suitable to function in extreme temperature conditions.

Used in – clocks, remote control for the television, flashlight, and smoke detector

Silver Oxide Battery

Silver Oxide battery uses silver oxide as a cathode and zinc as an anode. Since it uses silver, it is comparatively very expensive than any other primary battery. It is available in small sizes and is thus used in small devices like wristwatches.

Silver Oxide Batteries
Silver Oxide Batteries

Silver oxide batteries offer a high energy density and exceptionally long operating life. A peculiar quality of these batteries is that they provide almost the same voltage throughout their life until it is fully discharged. A high energy-to-weight ratio is another peculiar feature of these cells. Read more

Used in – Quartz watches, BLE devices and was used in Apollo program lunar mission

Zinc Air Batteries

Zinc air batteries
Zinc-air batteries

Zinc Air batteries contain only the anode material, which is zinc. It uses oxygen from the ambient air as the cathode. It offers a very high energy density and has a very long run time. This feature makes it the most suitable to power some medical devices like hearing aids and pacemakers.

These batteries are also widely used in cameras. Zinc Air batteries are not suitable to use in extreme climatic conditions, temperature, and humidity.

Used in – hearing aids, pacemakers, film cameras, and electric vehicle propulsion

How do Primary batteries differ from each other?

The table given below gives a detailed comparison of the primary batteries discussed above. This can help you choose the most appropriate one for your application.

Battery NameAvailable SizesCapacityShelf LifeCommon ApplicationProsCons
Lithium BatteriesAA, AAA, and 9V2,700-3,400 mAh10-12 yearsEmergency devices, light-weight for portable devicesLong shelf life, better, and the highest capacity in primary batteries.Expensive, careful disposal, not available in large sizes.
Alkaline BatteriesAvailable in all sizes2,500 mAh5-10 yearsHousehold portable devices like remote controls and dollsEconomical, easy to dispose of, perfect for most devices, cheapHeavy and bulky, not suitable for bulky devices, leakage
Carbon Zinc BatteriesAvailable in most the sizes600 mAh2-3 yearsRemotes, clocks, and low-power households.Cheap, easily availableVery low energy density, cannot perform in extreme temperatures, low shelf life
Silver Oxide BatteriesIn small button sizes150 – 200 mAh3 yearsUsed in small devices like wristwatchesExceptionally long operating life, high energy-to-weight ratioExpensive
Zinc Air BatteriesSmall sizes3600 mAh3 yearsHearing aid, pacemakersHave a very long run time, inexpensiveCannot use in extreme temperatures and humidity
Different types of Primary battery

What are Secondary batteries?

Secondary batteries can be reused once drained out. They are rechargeable batteries. The number of cycles of possible charging and discharging depends on the battery type. During recharging, the chemical reaction reverses and the active chemicals come back to their original state.

The devices that provide electric current to charge these batteries are called chargers or re-chargers.

The most familiar application of secondary battery is in mobile phones and laptops which we frequently recharge and use. The battery in electric vehicles is another particular example of the secondary battery. Since they can be reused, secondary batteries are more preferred than primary batteries nowadays.

Note: In gas-powered vehicles, a Lead acid battery(secondary battery) is used to power the electronics of the vehicle(light, speaker) and also as a starter battery.

What are the types of Secondary Batteries?

There are many different types of Secondary batteries but the most common ones along with their features and applications are discussed below.

Lithium Ion Batteries

The invention of Lithium-ion batteries was a major breakthrough in rechargeable batteries. It uses lithium as a cathode and graphite as the anode. It offers considerable enhancement of several peculiar features of a battery.

Lithium Ion Battery
Lithium Ion Battery

Lithium-ion battery has a good current capacity and long cycle life. It is lighter in weight and exhibits extremely good capacity. It is available in standard sizes as well as in customized sizes and is the most popular and widely used rechargeable battery nowadays.

The most significant limitation of these batteries is the tendency to overheat which can pose a safety hazard. Overheating of these batteries causes fire. It should be recycled or disposed of properly since it contains cobalt oxide or nickel oxide.

Used in: Cellphones, Laptops, Electric vehicles, Wireless headphones, and handheld power tools.

Nickel Cadmium Batteries

Nickel Cadmium batteries use nickel oxide hydroxide as cathode and cadmium as anode. These batteries are highly reliable and show high power capability. This battery is operable in a wide temperature range and has a long cycle life.

Nickel Cadmium batteries
Nickel Cadmium batteries

It offers very high capacity and thus can be used for high current applications. These batteries maintain a constant voltage until it discharges completely. It gives too low run-time per charge and makes approximately a 30% discharge rate per month.

Beyond these, the most significant drawback of Ni-Cd cells is the highly toxic nature of cadmium used in it. Due to this issue, Ni-Cd batteries are banned in several countries.

Used in: Power tools, emergency lighting, hobby RCs, photography equipment, and flashlights.

Nickel Metal Hydride Batteries

Nickel Metal Hydride(Ni-MH) battery was introduced as an improvisation of Ni-Cd batteries. It provides the same voltage as Ni-Cd batteries but offers 30% more capability.

Nickel Metal hydride batteries
Nickel Metal hydride batteries

These batteries are free from cadmium and thus reduce the toxic content. But it has to be properly recycled after use since it uses nickel oxide and cobalt. Ni-MH batteries exhibit good current capability and long cycle life. The discharge rate of these batteries is approximately 40% per month.

Used in: Old mobile phones and digital cameras.

Lead Acid Batteries

Lead Acid batteries are another popular rechargeable battery. The lead oxide is used as the cathode and lead as the anode. Highly concentrated aqueous sulfuric acid is used as the electrolyte in these cells. These batteries are mostly used in heavy applications like wheelchairs, scooters, etc, and are not thus available for common consumer purposes.

Lead Acid batteries
Lead Acid batteries

They are comparatively inexpensive and non-spillable. These batteries are manufactured in a very reliable and economical way. Since it uses lead which is toxic, the battery has to be recycled well. Almost 90% and above Lead-acid batteries are efficiently recycled and reused today.

The major drawback of these batteries is the chance of catching fire. This may happen due to short-circuit, puncture, damage, improperly charging, or improper disposal. Read more

Used in: Electric vehicles as main power supply, Gas vehicles as a starter battery, UPS and Inverter battery, etc.

Rechargeable Alkaline Batteries

Rechargeable Alkaline Batteries
Rechargeable Alkaline Batteries

Rechargeable alkaline batteries are the most cost-effective rechargeable batteries. These are the rechargeable version of alkaline batteries. It combines the advantages of alkaline batteries with recharging capability and thus has a very high consumer demand.

It is used for moderate power applications and has a long shelf life compared to other secondary batteries. But they have less cycle life than the other secondary batteries. It can be disposed of easily since there are no toxic elements in it.

Used in: Portable radio, flashlights, and remote control for televisions.

How do Secondary batteries differ from each other?

The table given below gives a detailed comparison of the primary batteries discussed above. This can help you choose the most appropriate one for your application.

Battery NameAvailable SizesCapacityCycle DurabilityShelf LifeCommon ApplicationProsCons
Lithium Ion BatteriesCustom sizes3842 mAh300-500 cycles2-3 yearsMobile phone or laptopExtremely high energy density, Environmentally friendly and safeNot available in regular household sizes, over-heating
Nickel Cadmium BatteriesAA, AAA, Cs, C, D, or Fup to 5000mAh2000-2500 cycles3 yearsToys, digital cameras, or high-drain devicesInexpensive, easily available, Delivers at full capacityNot environmentally friendly, requires a specific type of charger, overcharging reduces the capacity
Nickel Metal Hydride BatteriesAA, AAA1800 – 2800 mAhup to 2000 cycles5 yearsElectronic devices like mobile phones, computers, camcordersHigh energy density, environmentally friendlyReleases heat during charging, low specific energy
Lead Acid BatteriesOnly large sizes300 Ahup to 350 cycles2 yearsWheelchairs, scooters, or other heavy applicationsLarge capacity, non-spillableChances to catch fire, bulky
Rechargeable Alkaline BatteriesAll standard sizes2000 mAhup to 20 cycles5-10 yearsLow current drain portable purposesLess cycle lifeEnvironment-friendly, long shelf life
Comparing different types of Secondary batteries

Conclusion

Everyone uses a battery in one way or another. But the same battery can not be used for all purposes. The choice has to be made with respect to the possible current drain, battery capacity, recharging capability, size, cost, and several other features.

This article intends to brief out about the most commonly used batteries in the current scenario. The tabular comparison as well as the detailed description has been included to make a better comparison.

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