Battery Knowledge Base
Flow batteries are a special class of battery where additional quantities of electrolyte are stored outside the main power cell of the battery, and circulated through it by pumps or by movement. Flow batteries can have extremely large capacities and are used in marine applications and are gaining popularity in grid energy storage applications.
Zinc-bromine and vanadium redox batteries are typical examples of commercially-available flow batteries.
Since their development over 250 years ago, batteries have remained among the most expensive energy sources, and their manufacturing consumes many valuable resources and often involves hazardous chemicals. For this reason many areas now have battery recycling services available to recover some of the more toxic (and sometimes valuable) materials from used batteries. Batteries may be harmful or fatal if swallowed. It is also important to prevent dangerous elements found in some batteries, such as lead, mercury, cadmium, from entering the environment.
Cells in series or in parallel
The cells in a battery can be connected in parallel, series, or in both. A parallel combination of cells has the same voltage as a single cell, but can supply a higher current (the sum of the currents from all the cells). A series combination has the same current rating as a single cell but its voltage is the sum of the voltages of all the cells. Most practical electrochemical batteries, such as 9 volt flashlight (torch) batteries and 12 V automobile (car) batteries, have several cells connected in series inside the casing. Parallel arrangements suffer from the problem that, if one cell discharges faster than its neighbor, current will flow from the full cell to the empty cell, wasting power and possibly causing overheating. Even worse, if one cell becomes short-circuited due to an internal fault, its neighbor will be forced to discharge its maximum current into the faulty cell, leading to overheating and possibly explosion. Cells in parallel are therefore usually fitted with an electronic circuit to protect them against these problems. In both series and parallel types, the energy stored in the battery is equal to the sum of the energies stored in all the cells.
Effect of a battery's internal resistance
A battery can be simply modeled as a perfect voltage source (i.e. one with zero internal resistance) in series with a resistor. The voltage source depends mainly on the chemistry of the battery, not on whether it is empty or full. When a battery runs down, its internal resistance increases. When the battery is connected to a load (e.g. a light bulb), which has its own resistance, the resulting voltage across the load depends on the ratio of the battery's internal resistance to the resistance of the load. When the battery is fresh, its internal resistance is low, so the voltage across the load is almost equal to that of the battery's internal voltage source. As the battery runs down and its internal resistance increases, the voltage drop across its internal resistance increases, so the voltage at its terminals decreases, and the battery's ability to deliver power to the load decreases.
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