In this chapter you learned that batteries are widely used as
sources of direct-current. You were introduced to electrochemical action and the way it
works in a cell, the cell itself, the type and parts of a cell, and how cells are
connected together to form batteries. You learned the construction and maintenance of
batteries and some of the safety precautions in handling and working with batteries.
Several new terms were introduced in this chapter. The following is a summary of the
chapter on batteries.
A CELL is a device that transforms chemical energy into electrical energy. The cell has
three parts; the electrodes, the electrolyte, and the container. There are two basic
cells: primary and secondary.
THE ELECTRODES are the current conductors of the cell.
THE ELECTROLYTE is the solution that acts upon the electrodes.
THE CONTAINER holds the electrolyte and provides a means of mounting the electrodes.
THE PRIMARY CELL is a cell in which the chemical action finally destroys one of the
electrodes, usually the negative. The primary cell cannot be recharged.
THE SECONDARY CELL is a cell in which the chemical action alters the electrodes and
electrolyte. The electrodes and electrolyte can be restored to their original condition by
recharging the cell.
ELECTROCHEMICAL ACTION is the process of converting chemical energy into electrical
THE ANODE is the positive electrode of a cell.
THE CATHODE is the negative electrode of a cell.
PRIMARY CELL CHEMISTRY is the process in which electrons leaving the cathode to the
load cause a positive charge which attracts negative ions from the electrolyte. The
negative ions combine with the material of the cathode and form a substance such as
lead-sulfate. Electrons from the load to the anode create a negative charge which attracts
positive ions (hydrogen) from the electrolyte.
SECONDARY CELL CHEMISTRY is the process in which the electrolyte acts upon and
chemically changes both electrodes. This process also depletes the amount of active
material in the electrolyte. A charging current applied to the cell reverses the process
and restores the cell to its original condition.
POLARIZATION is the effect of hydrogen surrounding the anode of a cell which increases
the internal resistance of the cell. Polarization can be prevented by venting the cell,
adding a material rich in oxygen, or adding a material that will absorb hydrogen.
LOCAL ACTION is the continuation of current flow within the cell when there is no
external load. It is caused by impurities in the electrode and can be prevented by the use
of mercury amalgamated with the material of the electrode.
DRY CELL is the type commonly referred to as the "flashlight battery." Since
the electrolyte is not in liquid form, but is a paste, the term dry cell is used. In most
dry cells the case is the cathode.
SHELF LIFE is the period the cell may be stored and still be usable.
MERCURY CELLS should never be shorted because of the danger of explosion.
DRY CELLS are of many types, each having advantages and disadvantages. The type
selected for use depends on such factors as cost, size, ease of replacement, and voltage
or current needs.
THE LEAD-ACID CELL is the most widely used secondary cell. The lead-acid cell produces
electricity by electrochemical action. The anode is lead peroxide, the cathode is sponge
lead, and the electrolyte is sulfuric acid and water.
THE NICKEL-CADMIUM CELL, commonly called the NICAD, has the following advantages over
the lead-acid cell; charges in a shorter period of time, delivers a larger amount of
power, stays idle longer, and can be charged and discharged many times. The anode is
nickel hydroxide, the cathode is cadmium hydroxide, and the electrolyte is potassium
hydroxide and water.
THE SILVER-ZINC CELL is used mostly for emergency equipment. It is light, small, and
has a large power capacity for its size. The anode is silver oxide, the cathode is zinc,
and the electrolyte is potassium hydroxide and water.
THE SILVER-CADMIUM CELL combines the better features of the nickel-cadmium and
silver-zinc cells. The anode is silver-oxide, the cathode is cadmium hydroxide, and the
electrolyte is potassium hydroxide.
A BATTERY is a voltage source in a single container made from one or more cells. The
cells can be combined in series, parallel, or series-parallel.
SERIES CONNECTED CELLS provide a higher voltage than a single cell, with no increase in
PARALLEL CONNECTED CELLS provide a higher current than a single cell, with no increase
SERIES-PARALLEL CONNECTED CELLS provide a higher voltage and a higher current than a
TYPES OF BATTERIES can be determined from nameplate data.
HYDROMETER provides the means to check the specific gravity of the electrolyte.
SAFETY PRECAUTIONS should always be followed when working with or around batteries.
CAPACITY is an indication of the current-supplying capability of the battery for a
specific period of time; e.g., 400 ampere-hour.
RATING is the capacity of the battery for a specific rate of discharge. In most
batteries the rating is given for a 20 hour discharge cycle; e.g., 20 amperes for 20
BATTERY CHARGE is the process of reversing the current flow through the battery to
restore the battery to its original condition. The addition of active ingredient to the
electrolyte will not recharge the battery. There are five types of charges:
1. Initial charge
2. Normal charge
3. Equalizing charge
4. Floating charge
5. Fast charge
GASSING is the production of hydrogen gas caused by a portion of the charge current
breaking down the water in the electrolyte. Steady gassing is normal during the charging
process. Violent gassing indicates that the charge rate is too high.