What is a rechargeable battery?
A battery is a type of electrochemical generator composed of a group of electrochemical cells that can produce electrical energy based on chemical reactions. A rechargeable battery can also reverse the chemical process based on electric power.
How does a rechargeable battery work?
The way rechargeable batteries work is divided into two distinct processes: charging and discharging. Like other types of batteries, rechargeable batteries work based on an oxidation-reduction process. What differentiates rechargeable batteries from disposable ones is their reverse reaction capacity.
During the discharge process, one of the metals in the battery (anode) is oxidized and gives up electrons, while another metal (cathode) is reduced and gains electrons. Dry gel (electrolyte) captures and organizes electrons with their ions. The dry gel is solid and currently replaces the fabric or cardboard bathed in a saline solution that was in the first batteries.
In discharging, the chemical reaction between the components contained in the battery generates electrical power. Discharging is complete when the metal reaches its oxidation limit.
During the charging process, oxidation is reversed, returning electrons to the metal.
Every charge and discharge produces heat, which deforms the internal structure of the battery. The metal’s change of shape hinders the mobility of electrons, while the dried gel becomes more and more liquid, emanating gases.
What types of rechargeable batteries are there?
The most common chemical combinations in rechargeable batteries are:
- Nickel-metal hydride.
- Lithium ions.
- Lithium-ion polymer.
- Melted salt.
Of all these batteries, the one that has gained the most popularity in recent years has been the lithium-ion variety. However, lithium is an expensive material, and its capabilities are relatively limited. As a result, research on rechargeable batteries is still in full swing. As of late, other types of batteries are being worked on, such as magnesium kinds and a liquid metal battery developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
What advantages does a rechargeable battery have?
- Less environmental impact by replacing a disposable one multiple times.
- Better economic performance, although it requires a higher initial investment.
Domestically, the market has been moving toward rechargeable batteries for several years versus disposable ones. In fact, in the United States, the demand for rechargeable batteries is twice as high as for single-use ones.
What are the main applications of a rechargeable battery?
- Electronic devices.
- Electric vehicles.
- Systems whose electrical flow cannot be interrupted, such as hospitals’ intensive care equipment.
- The electricity network of renewable energies, where it is used to store charge during times of electrical production and low demand. Improving this aspect of technology is the main focus of current research.