Inside a Battery: How It All Works

These days, technology has advanced so much that it can seem like our devices and systems work on some kind of vague magic we can’t quite explain.

One of these sources of “magic” is the battery, the power source behind everything from your remote to your cell phone to the systems in your car. But if you’re mystified by how batteries work, we’re here to tell you it’s easy to get a handle on the basics. We’ll walk you through what batteries really do and what’s inside them.

Welcome to a brief journey inside a battery.

Types of Energy

To understand how batteries work, you’ll first have to get a little primer on what energy is and the different types of energy out there.

Let’s start with your basic energy know-how. You probably already know that batteries provide energy to power devices, cars, and all kinds of technological marvels.

For some devices, like speakers and keyboards, batteries can give you a wireless option you never had before. This can clue you in as to what kind of energy your batteries are giving you. If they can replace the electricity a wired option would give you, then yes: batteries provide electrical energy.

But it would be misleading to say that batteries contain electrical energy. They actually contain chemical energy! That’s the interesting part.

What makes a battery a battery is its ability to store chemical energy and convert it to electrical energy on command.

Starting, Lighting, and Ignition

The batteries used in automotive capacities are called SLI, which stands for Starting, Lighting, and Ignition. When you use a car’s battery, these are the things you’ll need to use the battery’s energy for.

Our maintenance free SLI Lead Acid batteries are sealed, which makes them a bit more hands-off than flooded lead acid batteries. The electrolyte fluid is sealed into the battery itself, and there’s no need to maintain the fluid level.

Energy Cells and Volts

Batteries store energy in something called cells. These cells are important pieces in the chemical reaction that has to happen inside the battery. The number of cells, together with the number of volts of energy each cell can contain, give you the total number of volts the entire battery has.

As you use the battery, you deplete its chemical energy source by converting it, over time, to electrical energy.

And beyond normal depletion during use, batteries can encounter corrosion damage. This is why features like corrosion resistant grids on our SLI Lead Acid batteries can extend the battery life longer than usual.

Then there’s the wear and tear of use in automotive situations. When you’re using a vehicle, you might encounter rough and rocky terrain. Vibration Resistance Technology, like the kind we use in our automotive batteries, can help the battery hold up through these situations.

The Chemicals Inside a Battery

You may have already heard some chemicals in the names of different battery types, like lithium or alkaline batteries. In car batteries, generally, the chemicals involved are lead and an acid. Whatever the components are in a particular battery, they will work together to provide a reaction that converts one type of energy to another.

Non-Rechargeable Batteries

Also called primary batteries (as opposed to secondary batteries, which are rechargeable), non-rechargeable batteries come in a few types, each with a different chemical composition under the hood.

Zinc carbon batteries are used for lots of general purposes. These are the oldest type of battery, but they’re still among the most commonly used today.

If you’re using a small device like a watch, you might know that there are special “watch batteries” out there that can fit in tiny spaces. What makes them special is that they operate on a single cell. And for longer-lasting use, there are the more expensive lithium and alkaline batteries.

The Lead Acid Reaction

Some of the most popular and versatile rechargeable batteries are Lead Acid batteries, which are used anywhere from cell phones to automotive purposes. For our maintenance free automotive battery, we actually use Silver Ion technology as well to improve the performance of the product.

Lead Acid batteries work based on the reaction between lead plates and a sulfuric acid electrolyte fluid. Lead dioxide plates react with the acid and form lead sulfate. Meanwhile, lead plates react with free sulfate ions to create the same compound.

So, when the battery is going through its energy “discharge” (when you’re using it), both the lead and lead dioxide plates form lead sulfate. What’s important, though, is that these reactions have different results on the plates.

The lead dioxide plates become positive as they supply electrons to the reaction. And the lead plates are left negative after supplying positive charges to the reaction. The battery then has a positive end and a negative end.

This is an exergonic process, meaning it releases energy – lots of it. This is how Lead Acid batteries have the capability to power large machines like automobiles.

The Deep Cycle LiFePO4 Type

If you’re interested in the heavy-duty side of things, you might have questions about the Deep Cycle LiFePO4 battery. Deep Cycle batteries are good for emergency situations as well as day-to-day use due to their reliability and long life.

Compared to Lead Acid batteries, Deep Cycle batteries have higher discharge capacities, meaning you can use it for long stretches without harming the battery life. The LiFePO4 battery is made with lithium, iron, and phosphate in order to accomplish this deep cycle process.

Now You Know!

Taking the time to understand how batteries work not only gives us a deeper appreciation for the tiny pieces that power our lives – it can also help you be an informed consumer. If you’re in the market for a battery, like the ones we take special care to perfect, knowing about the components inside a battery can help you understand the quality and features of the product.

So, if you’re searching for the perfect battery, now’s the time to put your newfound knowledge to work! If you have any questions or just want to chat about batteries, we’ll be happy to hear from you.

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