A rechargeable battery, also known as a storage battery, is a group of two or more secondary cells. These batteries can be restored to full charge by the application of electrical energy. In other words, they are electrochemical cells in which the electrochemical reaction that releases energy is readily reversible. Rechargeable electrochemical cells are therefore a type of accumulator. They come in many different designs using different chemicals. Commonly used secondary cell chemistries are lead and sulfuric acid, rechargeable alkaline battery (alkaline), nickel cadmium (NiCd), nickel metal hydride (NiMH), lithium ion (Li-ion), and lithium ion polymer (Li-ion polymer).
Rechargeable batteries can offer economic and environmental benefits compared to disposable batteries. Some rechargeable battery types are available in the same sizes as disposable types. While the rechargeable cells have a higher first cost than disposable batteries, rechargeable batteries can be discharged and recharged many times. Proper selection of a rechargeable battery system can reduce toxic materials sent to landfill disposal compared to an equivalent series of disposable batteries. Some manufacturers of NiMH type rechargeable batteries claim a lifespan up to 3000 charge cycles for their batteries.
Rechargeable batteries currently are used for applications such as automobile starters, portable consumer devices, tools, and uninterruptible power supplies. Emerging applications in Hybrid electric vehicles and electric vehicles are driving the technology to improve cost, reduce weight, and increase lifetime. Rechargeable batteries have been known since the lead acid battery was invented in 1859.
Grid energy storage applications use rechargeable batteries for load leveling, where they store electric energy for use during peak load periods, and for renewable energy uses, such as storing power generated from photovoltaic arrays during the day to be used at night. By charging batteries during periods of low demand and returning energy to the grid during periods of high electrical demand, load-leveling helps eliminate the need for expensive peaking power plants and helps amortize the cost of generators over more hours of operation.
The National Electrical Manufacturers Association has estimated that U.S. demand for rechargeables is growing twice as fast as demand for nonrechargeables.
During charging, the positive active material is oxidized, producing electrons, and the negative material is reduced, consuming electrons. These electrons constitute the current flow in the external circuit. The electrolyte may serve as a simple buffer for ion flow between the electrodes, as in lithium-ion and nickel-cadmium cells, or it may be an active participant in the electrochemical reaction, as in lead-acid cells.
The energy used to charge rechargeable batteries mostly comes from AC current (mains electricity) using an adapter unit. Most battery chargers can take several hours to charge a battery. Most batteries can be charged in far less time than the most common simple battery chargers are capable of. Duracell and Rayovac now sell chargers that can charge AA- and AAA-size NiMH batteries in just 15 minutes; Energizer sells chargers that can additionally charge C/D-size and 9V NiMH batteries.
Flow batteries don't need to be charged on place, because they can be charged by replacing the electrolyte liquid.
Battery manufacturers' technical notes often refer to VPC. This is Volts Per Cell, and refers to the individual secondary cells that make up the battery. For example, to charge a 12 V battery (containing 6 cells of 2 V each) at 2.3 VPC requires a voltage of 13.8 V across the battery's terminals.
The active components in a secondary cell are the chemicals that make up the positive and negative active materials, and the electrolyte. The positive and negative are made up of different materials, with the positive exhibiting a reduction potential and the negative having an oxidation potential. The sum of these potentials is the standard cell potential or voltage.
In primary cells the positive and negative electrodes are known as the cathode and anode, respectively. Although this convention is sometimes carried through to rechargeable systems—especially with lithium-ion cells, because of their origins in primary lithium cells—this practice can lead to confusion. In rechargeable cells the positive electrode is the cathode on discharge and the anode on charge, and vice versa for the negative electrode.
|Lead-acid||2.1||0.11-0.14||30-40||60-75||180||70%-92%||5-8||3%-4%||500-800||3 (car battery), 20 (stationary)|
|Thin film Li||?||350||959||?||?p||40000|
In 2007, assistant professor Yi Cui and colleagues at Stanford University's Department of Materials Science and Engineering discovered that using silicon nanowires gave rechargeable lithium ion batteries 10 times more charge. See also Nanowire battery.
Several alternatives to rechargeable batteries exist or are under development. For uses like portable radios and flashlights, rechargeable batteries may be replaced by clockwork mechanisms or dynamos which are cranked by the user to provide power. For transportation, uninterruptible power supply systems and laboratories, flywheel energy storage systems store energy in a spinning rotor for reconversion to electric power when needed; such systems may be used to provide large pulses of power that would otherwise be objectionable on a common electical grid.
A future development could be ultracapacitors for transportation, using a large capacitor to store energy instead of the rechargeable battery banks used in hybrid vehicles. One drawback to capacitors compared with batteries is that the terminal voltage drops rapidly; a capacitor that has 25% of its initial energy left in it will have one-half of its initial voltage. Battery systems tend to have a terminal voltage that does not decline rapidly until nearly exhausted. This characteristic complicates the design of power electronics for use with ultracapacitors. However, there are potential benefits in cycle efficiency, lifetime, and weight compared with rechargeable systems.