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Super Cells

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Batteries come in many shapes, sizes, and types. You have many choices when faced with battery buying decisions. Do you go for the battery with the lowest initial cost or should you pay more now with the hopes that the battery will last longer? Your challenge is to test a variety of batteries in different devices to determine which one gives you the most songs or pictures for your money. Hopefully, this investigation won’t be too draining on you and your batteries.

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Super Cells Brochure

Super Cells Brochure

What is a battery?

A battery is a type of electric cell that produces electricity from a chemical reaction. Inside the battery are a cathode and anode. The cathode is connected to the positive terminal, and the anode is connected to the negative terminal. A separator inside the battery keeps the cathode and anode from touching. When the battery is connected to a circuit, a chemical reaction takes place in both the cathode and the anode. The reaction in the anode releases electrons, and the reaction in the cathode accepts these electrons. To get from the anode to the cathode, the electrons must flow through the circuit, producing electricity.

What is a dry cell battery?

Dry cell batteries are a type of electrochemical cell that uses a paste to help produce and conduct charge. A major advantage of dry cell batteries is that they can operate in any orientation without fear of a liquid leaking out of the battery, as is the case of many wet cell batteries. This makes the dry cell battery an ideal energy supplier in many common electronic devices.

What is a zinc battery?

A common dry cell battery is the zinc-carbon battery. This battery uses a housing made of zinc metal that surrounds a paste inner chemical mixture. Most often the paste is a combination of ammonium chloride and manganese dioxide. At the central core of the battery is a carbon rod that is immersed in the paste. Their simple design and relative abundance of raw materials required to make the battery make them a low-cost option for devices needing battery power.

What is an alkaline battery?

Most alkaline batteries rely on the same design as a zinc-carbon dry cell. However, the alkaline battery differs in the chemical paste that surrounds the electrodes. The paste usually consists of potassium hydroxide. The battery's name comes from the hydroxide part of the battery, since "alkaline" means basic and the hydroxide ion is a strong base. Alkaline batteries typically have longer shelf lives and higher energy densities than most traditional zinc batteries.

What is a milliwatt×hour?

Energy provided or used is often measured in units of milliwatt×hours. Power refers to how much work is done over a given period of time and is measured in units of watts or milliwatts. To accomplish this work, energy is needed. The amount of time the energy is required to power some device is therefore measured in milliwatt×hours. For example, if a radio powered by a battery uses 100 milliwatts of power and is operated for 1 hour, the battery has provided 100 milliwatt×hours of energy.

What are rechargeable batteries and how do they work?

A rechargeable battery is a battery that can be recharged and used many times over. When a battery is discharged, it goes through electrochemical changes. In a non-rechargeable battery, these changes are irreversible. A rechargeable battery, however, has the ability to efficiently reverse the chemical changes that occur during discharge when electrical energy is applied to it. In this manner, it is restored to full charge and fit for use once again.

What are some advantages of rechargeable batteries?

While rechargeable batteries are more expensive than standard batteries, they are actually more cost effective in the long run. Standard batteries must be thrown away or recycled after a single use, but rechargeable batteries can simply be charged up again and reused. Rechargeable batteries can be used for years, and as technology advances, their lifespan is getting longer and longer. Because rechargeable batteries don't have to be disposed of after every use, they are much more environmentally friendly than regular batteries. Additionally, rechargeable batteries can often provide more power for a longer time than standard batteries can. Because of this, they are very convenient for products that use lots of power, such as cameras. Some rechargeable batteries also come with a warranty, so they can be replaced at little or no cost if they stop working.

What are the disadvantages of rechargeable batteries?

One of the main disadvantages of rechargeable batteries is that they require electricity and a charger to recharge. Not only do rechargeable batteries cost more than standard batteries, but you have to buy a charger as well. Additionally, most types of rechargeable batteries each require a different charger. If rechargeable batteries are not used after they are charged, they will lose some of their charge bit by bit.

How can you prolong the lifespan of rechargeable batteries?

To prolong the life of rechargeable batteries for as long as possible, you should let them discharge all the way the first few times that you use them, and then periodically from then on to avoid the "memory effect." The "memory effect" occurs when certain types of rechargeable batteries are only discharged to a certain percent of its capacity over and over again, and "forget" that they can discharge all of their energy. When you do recharge them, you should plug your charger into a surge protector to keep the batteries safe, as electrical surges can permanently damage batteries. Some types of rechargeable batteries work better with certain types of electronics, so you should use the type of battery recommended by the product.

Rechargeable Batteries Database

Battery Type Abbreviation Total Capacity (in milliamp hours) Self-Discharge Rate Uses Costs
Nickel Metal Hydride NiMH 1000 mAh (AAA) 2700 mAh (AA) 4% per day Large electronics, high-draw devices moderate
Nickel Cadmium NiCad 350 mAh (AAA) 1000 mAh(AA) 1% per day Small electronics moderate
Rechargeable Alkaline RAM 3000 mAh (AA) <2% per year Low drain devices like flashlights, remotes low
Lithium Ion LI-ion 350 mAh (AAA) 900 mAh (AA) 8% per month Digital cameras, laptops, cell phones high


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