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Other Types of Cells

    There are many different types of primary cells. Because of such factors as cost, size, ease of replacement, and voltage or current needs, many types of primary cells have been developed. The following is a brief description of some of the primary cells in use today.

    The Manganese Dioxide-Alkaline-Zinc Cell is similar to the zinc-carbon cell except for the electrolyte used. This type of cell offers better voltage stability and longer life than the zinc-carbon type. It also has a longer shelf life and can operate over a wide temperature range. The manganese dioxide-alkaline-zinc cell has a voltage of 1.5 volts and is available in a wide range of sizes. This cell is commonly referred to as the alkaline cell.

    The Magnesium-Manganese Dioxide Cell uses magnesium as the anode material. This allows a higher output capacity over an extended period of time compared to the zinc-carbon cell. This cell produces a voltage of approximately 2 volts. The disadvantage of this type of cell is the production of hydrogen during its operation.

    The Lithium-Organic Cell and the Lithium-Inorganic Cell are recent developments of a new line of high-energy cells. The main advantages of these types of cells are very high power, operation over a wide temperature range, they are lighter than most cells, and have a remarkably long shelf life of up to 20 years.

    Lithium cells contain toxic materials under pressure. Do not puncture, recharge, short-circuit, expose to excessively high temperatures, or incinerate. Use these batteries/cells only in approved equipment. Do not throw in trash.

Q19.Why should a mercury cell NOT be shorted?   Test Yourself
Q20.What factors should be considered when selecting a primary cell for a power source?   Test Yourself


    Secondary cells are sometimes known as wet cells. There are four basic type of wet cells, the lead-acid, nickel-cadmium, silver-zinc, and silver-cadmium.

Lead-Acid Cell

    The lead-acid cell is the most widely used secondary cell. The previous explanation of the secondary cell describes exactly the manner in which the lead-acid cell provides electrical power. The discharging and charging action presented in electrochemical action describes the lead-acid cell.

    You should recall that the lead-acid cell has an anode of lead peroxide, a cathode of sponge lead, and the electrolyte is sulfuric acid and water.

Nickel-Cadmium Cell

    The nickel-cadmium cell (NICAD) is far superior to the lead-acid cell. In comparison to lead-acid cells, these cells generally require less maintenance throughout their service life in regard to the adding of electrolyte or water. The major difference between the nickel-cadmium cell and the lead-acid cell is the material used in the cathode, anode, and electrolyte. In the nickel-cadmium cell the cathode is cadmium hydroxide, the anode is nickel hydroxide, and the electrolyte is potassium hydroxide and water.

    The nickel-cadmium and lead-acid cells have capacities that are comparable at normal discharge rates, but at high discharge rates the nickel-cadmium cell can deliver a larger amount of power. In addition the nickel-cadmium cell can:

1. Be charged in a shorter time,
2. Stay idle longer in any state of charge and keep a full charge when stored for a longer period of time, and
3. Be charged and discharged any number of times without any appreciable damage.
Due to their superior capabilities, nickel-cadmium cells are being used extensively in many military applications that require a cell with a high discharge rate. A good example is in the aircraft storage battery.

Silver-Zinc Cells

    The silver-zinc cell is used extensively to power emergency equipment. This type of cell is relatively expensive and can be charged and discharged fewer times than other types of cells. When compared to the lead-acid or nickel-cadmium cells, these disadvantages are overweighed by the light weight, small size, and good electrical capacity of the silver-zinc cell.

    The silver-zinc cell uses the same electrolyte as the nickel-cadmium cell (potassium hydroxide and water), but the anode and cathode differ from the nickel-cadmium cell. The anode is composed of silver oxide and the cathode is made of zinc.

Silver-Cadmium Cell

    The silver-cadmium cell is a fairly recent development for use in storage batteries. The silver-cadmium cell combines some of the better features of the nickel-cadmium and silver-zinc cells. It has more than twice the shelf life of the silver-zinc cell and can be recharged many more times. The disadvantages of the silver-cadmium cell are high cost and low voltage production.

    The electrolyte of the silver-cadmium cell is potassium hydroxide and water as in the nickel-cadmium and silver-zinc cells. The anode is silver oxide as in the silver-zinc cell and the cathode is cadmium hydroxide as in the nicad cell. You may notice that different combinations of materials are used to form the electrolyte, cathode, and anode of different cells. These combinations provide the cells with different qualities for many varied applications.

Q21.What are the four basic types of secondary (wet) cells?   Test Yourself
Q22.What are the advantages of a nicad cell over a lead-acid cell?   Test Yourself
Q23.What type of cell is most commonly used for emergency systems?   Test Yourself
Q24.What three cells use the same electrolyte?   Test Yourself


    A battery is a voltage source that uses chemical action to produce a voltage. In many cases the term battery is applied to a single cell, such as the flashlight battery. In the case of a flashlight that uses a battery of 1.5 volts, the battery is a single cell. The flashlight that is operated by 6 volts uses four cells in a single case and this is a battery composed of more than one cell. There are three ways to combine cells to form a battery.


    In many cases, a battery-powered device may require more electrical energy than one cell can provide. The device may require either a higher voltage or more current, and in some cases both. Under such conditions it is necessary to combine, or interconnect, a sufficient number of cells to meet the higher requirements. Cells connected in SERIES provide a higher voltage, while cells connected in PARALLEL provide a higher current capacity. To provide adequate power when both voltage and current requirements are greater than the capacity of one cell, a combination SERIES-PARALLEL network of cells must be used.

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