Are Rechargeable Batteries better to use?

Rechargeable Batteries
Rechargeable batteries have become very popular these days. We rely on electronics in our daily life like never before. Laptops, tablets, cell phones, portable music players, and almost all electronic equipment use rechargeable batteries. So does automobiles, aircrafts, satellites and other complex instruments. For common people this brings an interesting choice: do we use disposable batteries or rechargeable ones? Does one offer any advantage over the other? After all, examples of wrong battery choices are never very far from us - burning laptops (manufacturers announced recalls of laptop batteries) and grounded Dreamliners are reminders that we don't easily forget. Batteries can overheat and burn when overcharged unless they have an internal circuit to stop the charging process at full charge (Source:Howstuffworks)

Batteries are basically electrochemical cells that convert stored chemical energy into electrical energy. First battery was developed by Alessandro Volta in 1800 in the form of a Voltaic cell. They act as portable reservoirs of energy, and are used in all kinds of electrical instruments ranging from watches to satellites.

A battery produces electricity as a result of a chemical reaction between components stored inside. Primary batteries are disposable and once the chemicals are exhausted they are thrown away. Secondary batteries are rechargeable because the chemical reactions that produce electricity in it can be reversed. Choice between a disposable or a rechargeable battery is at times difficult, but knowing more about them will help us do that better. Rechargeable batteries make sense economically as they can be used multiple times.

They offer advantage when batteries become larger in size as well - it doesn't make sense to use disposable batteries for powering cars, airplanes or satellites either. However it is important that the batteries that we use should have enough power to last as long as they should. This is could be one problem with rechargeable batteries a rechargeable alkaline battery, for example, cannot carry as much energy as a disposable one. However the technologies used in rechargeable ones are catching up and they will catch up soon.

There are specific areas where the disposable batteries are preferred for example military and several emergency services. One of the primary reasons is that they need not be charged prior to the first use. However, this problem also might be tackled soon since the new NiMH batteries come 70 percent charged from the manufacturer and can be used out of the box. Moreover, rapid chargers that can recharge batteries in a fraction of time taken by old chargers are becoming more popular and less expensive. Lower internal resistance and supply more current when needed is another advantage of rechargeable batteries compared to the disposable.

One important consideration about rechargeable batteries is their cycling. Depending on the type of battery, they can be recharged 500 to 1000 times. Number of recharging cycles, state of charge during storage and temperature will all affect shelf life of rechargeable batteries. Many of these properties will depend on the type of chemistry used in the battery as well. Lithium based batteries have a shelf life of 2-3 years and Nickel batteries have more than 5 years. Nickel based batteries need to be discharged completely periodically to reverse memory formation, but this is not required for lithium based batteries.

Another important factor to consider is charge reversal during recharging. During recharging electricity is applied to the battery in a direction opposite to when it is being used. This means that the negative terminal of the battery is connected to the negative terminal of charger. Connecting batteries in the opposite orientation during charging or having another more discharged battery connected in series such that it causes reversal in flow of current will cause irreversible damage to the battery.

These examples show that choice of batteries, their storage and cycling should be carried out depending on the chemistry used. However one disadvantage of rechargeable batteries is that they lose charge easily on storage and it is not suitable for long term energy storage a disposable battery is definitely the choice when energy storage is an important factor. Rechargeable battery technology is developing fast (New lithium-ion battery design recharges 1,000 times faster).

Recent discoveries in nanotechnology (nanotechnology and rechargeable batteries) and miniaturization promise us with better, more efficient batteries that can power technologies like computers, hybrid vehicles, grid storage and satellites. Rechargeable batteries do not offer all the conveniences of a disposable one, but they are improving rapidly and will soon replace disposable batteries in most applications. If properly used and judiciously disposed, they offer a better choice to reduce pollution as well. For routine uses, rechargeable batteries are definitely the winner, no questions asked.

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Written by : Sujatha S., Canada (PHD Life Sciences)

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Are Rechargeable Batteries better to use?

Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )

Disclaimer: The suggestions in the article(wherever applicable) are for informational purposes only. They are not intended as medical or any other type of advice