Battery Knowledge Base -- Conversion and Explosion
Conversion to energy
The ampere-hour (A·h) rating of a battery is related to the amount of energy it stores when fully charged. If two batteries have the same nominal voltage, then the one with the higher A·h rating stores more energy. It also typically takes longer to recharge. Accurate calculation of the energy stored in the battery is complex due to the varying terminal voltage during discharge (and so the need to specify an end terminal voltage for discharge), and due to the dependency of total capacity on the discharge rate and discharge duty.
Secondary batteries always yield less energy than was used to charge them, since (among other reasons) the terminal voltage during charging is higher than during discharging. The nickel cadmium and nickel metal-hydride designs have efficiencies of around 66%. However, modern lithium designs have almost negated this wastage as they can have efficiencies of around 99%.
A battery explosion is caused by the misuse or malfunction of a battery, such as attempting to recharge a primary (non-rechargeable) battery, or short circuiting a battery. With car batteries, explosions are most likely to occur when a short circuit generates very large currents. In addition, car batteries liberate hydrogen when they are overcharged (because of electrolysis of the water in the electrolyte). Normally the amount of overcharging is very small, as is the amount of explosive gas developed, and the gas dissipates quickly. However, when "jumping" a car battery, the high current can cause the rapid release of large volumes of hydrogen, which can be ignited by a nearby spark (for example, when removing the jumper cables).
When a battery is recharged at an excessive rate, an explosive gas mixture of hydrogen and oxygen may be produced faster than it can escape from within the walls of the battery, leading to pressure build-up and the possibility of the battery case bursting. In extreme cases, the battery acid may spray violently from the casing of the battery and cause injury.
Additionally, disposing of a battery in fire may cause an explosion as steam builds up within the sealed case of the battery.
Overcharging -- that is, attempting to charge a battery beyond its electrical capacity -- can also lead to a battery explosion, leakage, or irreversible damage to the battery. It may also cause damage to the charger or device in which the overcharged battery is later used.
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