Battery (electricity)

With the concept of electric battery interconnection of several similar galvanic cells or elements is referred to as which initially, such as in the voltaic pile or Zambonisäule, only non-rechargeable (so-called " primary cells " or " primary elements " ) were available. With the development of economically usable rechargeable " batteries", also called " secondary cell " or " secondary elements ", eg Multigraph to 1850-1886, the use of the word "battery" has been extended to the interconnection of several such cells, eg, in the later starter batteries for motor vehicles or traction batteries of submarines, etc.

Lately, finally, the use of the term "battery" also extended to individual primary or secondary cells being used for the latter the term " battery cell" or abbreviated " battery." The described change of language use was 40729 batteries in the DIN standard; Galvanic secondary elements; Basic concepts addressed, which has " always more merged cells " is understood battery, this terminology has become " blurred distinction, however, " in the everyday.

With reference to this term history is here only the diversity " electrical cell " described, referred to colloquially as " batteries ", where the meeting of " primary cells " in the foreground - for a more detailed discussion of " secondary cells " see main article accumulator.


In 1780, the Italian physician Luigi Galvani noticed that a frog leg, which came into contact with copper and iron, repeatedly shrugged and thought it was an electrical effect. The first working galvanic element and thus the first battery was presented in the form of the voltaic pile in 1800 by Alessandro Volta. Position-independent dry batteries go back to the work of Carl Gassner, which of these patented in 1887. In 1901, Paul Schmidt sat in Berlin for the first time the dry battery with flashlights.

As batteries interpreted ancient vessel assemblies such as the " Baghdad battery" could produce an electric voltage of about 0.8 V by an interaction of copper, iron and acidity. Whether these vessels was used at that time about 2,000 years ago as the batteries in the modern sense, is controversial and has not yet been unequivocally established.


An electric cell is an electrochemical energy storage means and an energy converter. Upon discharge stored chemical energy is converted by the electrochemical redox reaction into electric energy. This can be used by an independent electrical loads from the power supply. Alternatively, they can also be used in a dependent from the power consumers to bridge short-term failures in the power supply and so ensure an uninterrupted power supply.

Primary cells can be used only once discharged and not recharged. In these cells, the reactions in the discharge are partially reversible, but not leading to the new state to restore a similar energy content. However, the rechargeable secondary batteries (accumulators) are largely to bring the charge condition similar to the new state, so that a multiple conversion of chemical energy into electrical energy and is back possible.

The electrode materials determine the nominal voltage of the cell, the amount of materials the energy contained.

Important criteria in terms of electrical properties of a battery cell:

The weakest cell determines the quality of a battery. In parallel, it comes through equalizing currents to greater losses when the cell is discharged more quickly with lower capacity. In series circuit the voltage drops under load together rather because stronger, yet loaded cells drive current through weaker, already discharged cells. The internal resistance according to Ohm's law leads to cell heating, without the electric power is available.

Areas of application

Depending on the application there are the following terms and Associations:

  • "Portable battery " are used to power small, usually portable devices, such as flashlights and mobile phones. They usually consist of a plurality of cells in standardized sizes, both as single-use primary cell as well as a rechargeable battery. Especially small variants, eg for hearing aids or quartz watches are called coin cells.
  • Starter batteries for motor vehicles, traction batteries or deep cycle storage batteries for electric vehicles and stationary, stationary applications such as uninterruptible power supplies. These batteries are always accumulators.

Type variations

Because of the many areas with very different requirements in terms of voltage, power and capacity of today there are many types of batteries. These are differentiated, for example,

  • After chemical quality of the underlying redox reaction,
  • Interconnection of cells
  • After cell sizes.

Standard batteries and cells differ both in the electrical properties as well as the geometric and structural design. Of the names listed below several together can describe a cell type, such as " alkaline manganese cell - LR 6/AM-3 - AA - AA ". Often, however, only a particular feature is required, for example, the "AA" size for a specially adapted flashlight.

The experimental area and illustrating the principle of operation are rather exotic galvanic cells, such as lemon cells used.

Primary cells

As primary cells galvanic cells are referred to, which can not be re- charged after the discharge. The different types are referred to by the materials used (except for rechargeable alkaline cells - these are counted anyway to primary cells):

  • Standard batteries (based on zinc - manganese) Alkaline manganese battery; 1.5 V nominal voltage per cell
  • Zinc chloride battery; 1.5 V per cell ( almost completely replaced by alkaline battery)
  • Zinc -carbon battery; 1.5 V per cell ( in Europe almost completely replaced by alkali - manganese battery, apart from some larger designs such as lantern batteries)
  • Zinc -air battery; 1.5 V per cell
  • Mercuric oxide -zinc battery; 1.35 V per cell
  • Silver oxide -zinc battery; 1.55 V per cell
  • Nickel oxyhydroxide battery; 1.7 V per cell
  • Lithium batteries; depending on the cathode material 1.8 V ( FeS2 ) to 3.7 V ( SOCl2 )
  • Lithium - iron sulfide battery; 1.5 V per cell
  • Aluminum - Air Battery; 1.2 V per cell
  • Biobatterie decomposed based on magnesium / NaCl / iron molybdenum tungsten, in the body
  • Edison -Lalande element; 0.75 V per element

Historically, between dry batteries as a solid or gel-like electrolyte and wet batteries such as the Daniell cell with liquid electrolyte in a glass vessel, distinguished.


As devices Batteries are often referred to, which is very widely used for the power supply of small electrical appliances such as clocks, radios, toys, flashlights and the like. and are also used in fixed devices such as smoke detectors.

Portable batteries must be compact, position-independent use, light yet mechanically robust. They may not leak yet gassing under normal storage and use in the device. They are available in a variety of designs based on zinc-carbon batteries or alkaline manganese battery commercially available - zinc -carbon batteries are offered increasingly rare and barely made ​​.

There are many standardized by the IEC types and some names from the ANSI and unofficial names, especially for the nine most popular categories:

Adapter and contact

Not every battery type is available in all countries. Therefore, there is, for example, flat battery adapters that accommodate three AA cells at 1.5V each. This can be used in all devices, into which fits a flat battery. These adapters are useful also because there is no rechargeable batteries flat to date.

The contacting of small batteries is done with spring contacts, more reliable models for lithium batteries are gold plated. Fixed accumulators are provided with pins, screw, pole bolts or solder tabs.

Assembled rechargeable batteries, battery packs called, consist of several cells, which are connected among themselves and often provided with a casing or housing. For starter batteries, the cells are interconnected with lead ridges contacted in traction batteries usually with copper connectors.

Microsoft offered 2010 " InstaLoad " called, purely mechanical solution of a battery compartment that allows you to insert battery single cells in any orientation. The contacts are designed so that no polarity reversal can occur.


Batteries and accumulators do not belong in household waste containers or in the environment because they contain polluting and also re- usable valuable raw materials which make battery recycling economically attractive for respective companies.

In Germany the Battery Ordinance regulates the return and disposal of batteries. It defines, among other things, that no batteries or cells must be placed on the market with a mercury content of no more than 0.0005 percent in Germany. For button cells, the mercury content must not exceed 2.0 percent by weight. Since the early 1990s, alkaline batteries no longer contain mercury. Before that it was used for the amalgamation of the zinc electrode material.

Small batteries can be returned to Germany in retail stores if they also sell batteries. To this end, collecting must be placed there. For automotive batteries, there is a deposit system in Germany.