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Battery Chemistry Guide

This is a quick guide about the differences between batteries of different chemical compositions. This page will be able to help you answer many of the questions you may have about differences in performance and applications for each type of battery.

Battery Guide

Rechargeable

Disposable

Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) LSD NiMH (Low Self Discharge) Nickel-Zinc (NiZn) Rechargeable Alkaline Alkaline High-Drain Alkaline Lithium Carbon Zinc, Zinc Chloride
Short Summary Dry cell battery typically comes in AAA, AA, C, D, 9 Volt, 12 volt sizes, usually poly-wrapped in packs. Great all around battery, suffers from a shorter shelf life. Good all around battery, has a significantly greater shelf life than standard NiMH. Manufacturers claim batteries retain 70-85% of capacity when stored at a standard 20°C, up from about 50% retention from normal NiMH batteries. W Good for use in high voltage devices, are much lighter than lead-acid type batteries when comparing models of the same power. Self discharge rate increases after about 30 charge cycles which decreases battery performance over time. Typically used with cordless power tools, wireless home phones, battery operated garden/lawn tools and others of that type. Available in AAA, AA, C, D, or snap-on 9-volt batteries. Rechargeable alkalines hold charge longer than NiCd and NiMH batteries which self discharge. Great for use in low-drain devices such as remotes and flashlights, and more environmentally friendly than disposable batteries. Cheap and most commonly used battery. Comes in AAA, AA, C, D, 9-volt, and button cells. Non-spillable, non-toxic, possibly can leak with age, commonly used with cameras, toys, and watches. Not used often because most high drain devices will go through batteries quickly and will incur high costs. Not Lithium Ion, comes in AAA, AA, 9-Volt, and small cylinder. Non-spillable, non-toxic, but have potential to explode or overheat if short-circuited, mainly used in watches, cameras, alarms, pacemakers, and others. Carbon Zinc: One of the first weakest types of batteries, mainly used in intermittent or low drain devices like remote controls and clocks. Zinc Chloride: Slight variation in chemical mix from Carbon Zinc which increases capacity by roughly 50%, typically labeled as "heavy duty" these batteries perform better at low temperatures than Carbon Zinc but are at same risk of explosion at higher temperatures. Both compositions are the least often used battery types.
Use for High Drain Devices? Yes Yes Yes Functionally work but reusable batteries are a better more cost effective option
Go through batteries quickly Yes Yes Yes
Want more than 50-deep cycles (battery is fully used before charging) Yes Yes Yes
Use for low drain devices (remotes, clocks, low output lights) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Used for when you want the brightest output from your flashlight? NiMH will be as bright as higher voltage baterries when used in flashlights which regulate or cap voltage amounts Higher voltage battery, but also runs the risk of burning out bulbs more quickly than other batteries. Also if the flashlight regulates voltage then this battery will offer no advantage over standard batteries Yes Yes Yes Yes
For use when wary of excess voltage damaging device Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Long shelf life (i.e. the battery holds its charge after months of being inactive Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
No risk of battery leakage in device Yes Yes Yes Yes
For use with C or D size Yes Yes Rarely sometimes Yes sometimes
Used in smoke detectors yes sometimes sometimes yes sometimes
Require use in cold temperatures? works well from -4 to 14°F, varies depending on brand Yes Performance drops noticeably when below 60°F depending on the brand, size, and rate of discharge Yes too low of a capacity
Method of recycling Thousands of locations for recycling these batteries, available drop offs at most major stores like Home Depot, Target, Wal-Mart and others. Find the one closest to you here Drop-off recycling for disposable batteries is very rare, often times batteries must be mailed in to be recycled




Batteries:

Rechargeable

Disposable

Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) Nickel Zinc (NiZn) Rechargeable Alkaline Alkaline Lithium Carbon Zinc, Zinc Chloride

Basic Information

Short Summary Dry cell battery typically comes in AAA, AA, C, D, 9 Volt, 12 volt sizes, usually poly-wrapped in packs. Great all around battery, suffers from a shorter shelf life. Good for use in high voltage devices, are much lighter than lead-acid type batteries when comparing models of the same power. Self discharge rate increases after about 30 charge cycles which decreases battery performance over time. Typically used with cordless power tools, wireless home phones, battery operated garden/lawn tools and others of that type. Available in AAA, AA, C, D, or snap-on 9-volt batteries. Rechargeable alkalines hold charge longer than NiCd and NiMH batteries which self discharge. Great for use in low-drain devices such as remotes and flashlights, and more environmentally friendly than disposable batteries. Cheap and most commonly used battery. Comes in AAA, AA, C, D, 9-volt, and button cells. Non-spillable, non-toxic, possibly can leak with age, commonly used with cameras, toys, and watches. Not Lithium Ion, comes in AAA, AA, 9-Volt, and small cylinder. Non-spillable, non-toxic, but have potential to explode or overheat if short-circuited, mainly used in watches, cameras, alarms, pacemakers, and others. Carbon Zinc: One of the first weakest types of batteries, mainly used in intermittent or low drain devices like remote controls and clocks. Zinc Chloride: Slight variation in chemical mix from Carbon Zinc which increases capacity by roughly 50%, typically labeled as "heavy duty" these batteries perform better at low temperatures than Carbon Zinc but are at same risk of explosion at higher temperatures. Both compositions are the least often used battery types.
Brands Low Self Discharge: eneloop, Tenergy, Duracell, Kodak, Rayovac. Non Low Self Discharge: Sanyo/Panasonic, Duracell Generics Available Online Juice, Pure Energy, Lenmar Chargeables, Accucell Normal Drain: Energizer, Rayovac. High Drain: Energizer e2 Titanium, Kodak Photolife, Duracell Ultra Energizer Ultimate Lithium, Energizer Advanced Lithium Typically non-branded
Method of recycling Thousands of locations for recycling these batteries, available drop offs at most major stores like Home Depot, Target, Wal-Mart and others. Find the one closest to you here Drop-off recycling for disposable batteries is very rare, often times batteries must be mailed in to be recycled

Performance Information

Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) Nickel-Zinc (NiZn) Rechargeable Alkaline Alkaline Lithium Carbon Zinc, Zinc Chloride
Capacity High High High Initially, less with each charge cycle High High Low
Performance in high-drain devices (such as digital cameras) Very Good: can have 2-3X the capacity of an equivalent size NiCd battery Very Good Poor Standard: Poor High Drain: Good Excellent Very poor
Self-discharge rate (calendar life if not used) LSD NiMH: Cells retain 70-85% of their capacity when stored at 20°C over a year. Non-LSD NiMH: Fast- Loses 5-20% on first day and 0.5-4% per day subsequently (depending on brand) Storage at 45C raises self discharge rate by roughly 3x as much Fast: loses 8-13% per month (sources vary on rate) Very Slow (less than 0.5% per month, shelf life is 5-7 years Very Slow: less than 2% per year (will retain at least 80% capacity over 5-7 years) Slowest Self Discharge Rate (loses ~0.6% per year, 10-15 year shelf life depending on brand) Slow (retains 80% capacity after 3-4 years)
percentage of battery available at freezing temperature 91% N/A 35-75% (the higher the drain rate, the more capacity is lost) 31-75% (greater capacity lost at greater drain rates) 82-98% (more capacity maintained at lower drains) 100%
Temperature range for use -4 to 149°F (-20 to 65°C) -4 to 140°F (-20 to 60°C) -4 to 140°F (-20 to 60°C) 0 to 131°F (-18 to 55°C) -40 to 140°F (-40 to 60°C) 0 to 130°F (-18 to 55°C)

Capacities

Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) Nickel-Zinc (NiZn) Rechargeable Alkaline Alkaline Lithium Carbon Zinc, Zinc Chloride
Capacity (AAA) varies depending on brand Normal: 600-1250mAh LSD: 800 mAh 700mAh 800mAh 1150mAh 1100-1250mAh 320-550mAh
Capacity (AA) Normal: 1200-2700mAh LSD: 2000mAh 1350-1500mAh (however capacity drops sharply with each charge cycle) 1440-2000mAh (drops with each charge cycle) 2122-2400mAh 2100-3000mAh 500-1100mAh
Capacity (D) 2200-12,000mAh not made in this size 8000mAh (drops with each charge cycle) 13,875-17,000mAh not available in this size 3000-6880mAh

Recharging Information/Miscellaneous

Rechargeable? Yes Yes Sort of No No No
Recharge cycles Normal: 100-1000 LSD: 500-1500 100-800 25-100 (with lowered capacity after each charge) less than 10 N/A N/A
Intial Voltage 1.2V 1.6V 1.5V 1.5V 1.5-1.8V or 3.7V 1.5V
Weight (AA) 30g 25g 22g 23g 14.5g 15g