Secondary Batteries vs. Primary Batteries

18 Jun

An electrical battery is an electrochemical cell that converts stored chemical energy into electrical energy. There are two types of batteries: primary batteries  (also called disposable batteries), which are designed to be used once and discarded when they are exhausted, and secondary batteries (rechargeable batteries), which are designed to be recharged and used multiple times. Nowadays, an extensive range of batteries is available in the market which includes batteries for notebooks and netbooks, laptop batteries manufactured by Dell, HP, Lenovo, Toshiba and Sony, batteries for hybrid electric vehicles, medical equipments, industrial applications, power tools, cellular phones, still and video cameras, electric wheel chairs, automobiles and much more.  Each battery has an explicit assembly and displays diverse properties. This built-in complexity makes it tough to build up a standard for rapid testing of batteries that works equally well with all technologies.

  • Primary batteries

Primary batteries can generate current right away on assemblage. Disposable batteries are intended to be used once and thrown away. These are most generally used in portable devices that have low current consumption, are only used sporadically, or are used well away from an unconventional power source, such as in alarm and communication circuits where other electric power is only occasionally accessible. Disposable primary cells cannot be consistently recharged since the chemical reactions are not effortlessly reversible and active resources may not go back to their original forms. Battery producers suggest against trying to recharge primary cells.

Common types of disposable batteries include zinc carbon batteries and alkaline batteries. Usually, these batteries have higher energy densities than rechargeable batteries but disposable batteries do not cost well under high drain applications with loads under 0.075 Kohms

  • Secondary batteries

Secondary batteries must be charged before use. They are usually made up of active materials in the discharged state. Rechargeable batteries or secondary cells can be recharged by applying electrical current which reverses the chemical reactions that occur during the usage. Devices that supply the suitable current are called chargers or rechargers.

The oldest type of rechargeable battery is the lead-acid battery. Their very low energy-to-weight ratio and energy-to-volume ratio, capability to supply high surge currents along with their low cost make them appropriate for use in automobiles as starter motors require high amount of current. Depending upon the application, two types of Lead acid batteries have evolved over the past few years, namely: Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) and Valve Regulated Lead Acid (VRLA). This battery is prominent in that it contains a liquid in an unsealed container. This requires that the battery is kept straight and the area has proper air circulation to guarantee safe diffusion of the hydrogen gas produced by these batteries during overcharging. The lead acid battery is also very weighty for the amount of electrical energy it can supply. Despite this, it’s small production cost and its elevated rush current levels make its use ordinary where a large capacity (over just about 10 A h) is necessary or where the heaviness and easiness of treatment are not concerns. Batteries for notebooks and netbooks, laptop batteries manufactured by Dell, HP, Lenovo, Toshiba and Sony are usually rechargeable to improve convenience.

Will Secondary batteries take over the Primary Batteries?

Secondary batteries, being easily rechargeable, are gradually superseding the primary batteries because of the following plus points:

  • Low cost -They can be recharged hundreds of times, which makes them the cheapest type of battery available
  • Greater efficiency and performance
  • Easy to use
  • Environment friendly
  • Rechargeable batteries consume less non-renewable natural resources (fossil and mineral) than disposable batteries.
  • Rechargeable batteries have less impact on climate warming than disposable batteries
  • The capacity is much higher than any alkaline battery, so they are ideal for power hungry equipment (such as digital cameras)
  • They last longer than other types of batteries. This property makes them suitable for all types of applications.

Secondary batteries such as NiCd, NiMH and Lithium Ion can be recharged, sometimes as often as 1,000 times, by the flow of direct current through them in a direction opposite to the current flow on discharge. By recharging after discharge, a higher state of oxidation is created at the positive plate (electrode) and a lower state at the negative plate (cathode), returning the plates to approximately their original charged condition.


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