Battery Elements: Introduction, Development and Working

Sep 15, 2020   Pageview:26


Batteries are made up of diverse elements that are extracted from the Earth’s crust and they have to be present in the right amounts in the battery for proper interaction. Some of the earliest elements that were used were copper and zinc in 1799 when the first battery was invented and since then a number of other elements from the periodic table have been used for developing batteries.

What are Battery Elements?

The earliest batteries in 1799 used copper and zinc as battery elements and since then scientists started looking for other elements in the periodic table that could be used for developing batteries. Lithium and nickel are widely used to make different types of batteries. Other elements like silver and gold are too expensive to be used in batteries and noble gases do not have the right properties for their use in a balanced interaction.

Within every battery there is a cathode, an anode and the fluid that allows ions to pass between the anode and cathode. Depending on the use of different elements in making the anode and cathode, there are different types of batteries. The zinc copper batteries were the earliest batteries which are no longer in commercial use today. Then there are lead acid batteries that use the element lead and its oxide. These batteries are rechargeable and used in electric cars. Nickel cadmium batteries (NiCd) developed in the 1990s for portable devices but since cadmium is toxic, its use declined after the advent of lithium ion batteries.

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There are nickel iron batteries that use nickel oxide and iron at the cathode and anode and these batteries were used in the railways for back up storage. In modern times we use the rechargeable alkaline batteries or the AAA batteries that constitutes of elements zinc and manganese dioxide. Also known as pencil cells, these are the most common batteries found in every household today used for charging remote controls to clocks and almost any electronic device.

Other than these there are many forms of batteries that have been developed using the elements nickel, lithium, zinc and their oxides.


How do battery elements develop?

Battery elements are harvested from the Earth’s crust and each has a different property that makes it apt for use in batteries. Aluminum used in batteries is a metal that is released from bauxite and it is the third most abundant element on Earth. It finds its use in the cathode in some lithium ion batteries. Antimony is another element that is used in lead acid batteries to reinforce the lead plates. It is a white metallic element and is also mixed with other elements to form semi-conductors.

Cadmium that is a potentially toxic element is released as a byproduct during zinc production. It is used as anode in nickel cadmium batteries but the use of these batteries has been banned commercially. Calcium is the fifth most abundant element on Earth and plays an important role in strengthening the metal plates in lead acid batteries. Chloride is another element that is widely used in the electrolyte of batteries.

The most common element on Earth is iron and has been tested for its potential use in batteries after copper. Iron is used in lithium iron phosphate oxide batteries and has been sued since ancient times. Lead is the most stable of all elements and is widely used in batteries. Another element that is relatively abundant is manganese used in batteries. Nickel is an element that is best suited for battery electrodes and is often used in Zombination with iron or zinc. Sodium is the sixth most common element and is often used in combination with sulfur in batteries.

Zinc is the most commonly used element in batteries since its discovery by Alexandra Volta and the making of Voltaic cells which are no more commercially available. However, zinc plates are used in batteries and also in combination with copper, iron or magnesium.

Most of these elements are found in the Earth’s crust and have been harvested from there and used in combination with other elements and metals for its use in batteries. The lithium ion batteries and the alkaline AAA batteries are most widely used today for portable devices and car batteries.

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How do different battery elements work?

Different types of batteries have different elements at the cathode and anode and when you use these batteries in a device, it connects them to a circuit that makes the chemical reactions go. Say for example for the common alkaline batteries that we use, the anode is commonly made of zinc and the cathode is made of manganese dioxide. The oxide of an element at one end and another element at the other end. Now, there is an electrolyte between them that makes the electrons flow from one end to the other. When the electrolyte comes in contact with the electrodes, a series of oxidation-reduction reaction takes place. The cathode is the oxidizing electrode as it accepts oxygen or electrons and the anode is reducing agent as it donates electrons. This makes electrons flow from anode to cathode and this creates a charge difference that makes the current flow.

Rechargeable batteries are the ones where electrodes can be recharged as opposed to the non-rechargeable ones where this chemical reaction can take place only for some time after which the anode can no more donate electrons and the battery loses its power.

Most of the batteries have an oxide element at the cathode and an element at the anode for this reason. The anode loses an electron that the cathode accepts and this initiates the flow of electrons that makes the charge flowing in the battery. All the common batteries including triple A batteries, lithium ion batteries are based on this concept with the use of different elements.


Most of the elements in the periodic table have been tested for their use in batteries and these elements are commonly found on Earth. The abundance of these elements and their efficiency in the use of batteries has led to the development of different types of rechargeable batteries for future use.

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