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lead acid battery with charging cables Rechargeable batteries are devices that store and supply electrical energy.  These types of batteries are made from chemicals that allow them to be recharged when they run out of energy, rather than thrown out.  A typical rechargeable battery can be used more than 1,000 times, and can last for 10 years or more.  Unlike disposable batteries, rechargeable batteries don't clutter our landfills and pollute our environment, and they generally contain less harmful materials than disposable batteries.

Rechargeable batteries are made from several different chemistries.  The rechargeable lead-acid battery, initially developed by Gaston Plante in 1859 and presented to the French Academy of Sciences in 1860, was later improved by Camille Faure in 1881.  Lead-acid batteries have been used commercially for more than 100 years; the 12 volt automotive battery is the most familiar type of lead-acid battery.

nickel metal hydride rechargeable battery Another early type of rechargeable battery was made out of nickel cadmium (NiCd).  Invented in 1899 by Swedish scientist Walter Jungner, the NiCd battery became commercially available in its current form about 50 years later.  Nickel cadmium batteries do contain toxic metals, but they are durable and economical, performing well under rigorous conditions.  The NiCd battery was eventually followed by the nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) battery, which experts claimed had better performance and a longer life.  NiMH batteries are environmentally friendly, and they offer higher energy densities than NiCd batteries, but they do have some downsides.  Nickel-metal-hydride batteries require sophisticated charging algorithms, and they suffer from high self-discharge rates.

lithium ion battery pack More recently, the lithium-ion battery has been introduced.  Lithium ions, which are created through the use of the chemical lithium, are able to store electrical charges.  In addition to being lighter weight than their predecessors, lithium batteries last longer, and provide significantly more power.

How does lithium produce lithium ions?  Essentially, the center of a lithium atom is orbited by two inner electrons and one outer electron.  When used in a battery, the outer electron is removed, which then creates the lithium ion that can store electrical charges.  One of the things that people appreciate about lithium-ion batteries is that it takes fewer cells than earlier rechargeable batteries to create the same voltage.  When all is said and done, this means that lithium battery packs are significantly lighter than their predecessors.  In addition, they can adequately power smaller devices, which is extremely important as nanotechnology becomes more and more important.

Items that use lithium-ion batteries often cost more than items that use other kinds of rechargeable batteries, mostly because the materials used in lithium-ion batteries are more expensive.  As lithium-ion batteries become more commonplace, prices will most likely become lower.

To extend the life of your rechargeable batteries, be sure not to expose them to extreme temperatures, or let them run until they are completely drained of power.  Today, rechargeable batteries are the answer for anyone who needs safe, lightweight power on the go.

Blinking CHARGE Light on a Battery Charger

Rechargeable Battery Research and Recycling

  • Argonne Transportation Battery Research
    This R&D Center is working to develop rechargeable high-performance batteries for electric vehicles and fuel cell-based applications.
    www.Transportation.ANL.gov
  • Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation - Call2Recycle
    This non-profit organization recycles rechargeable batteries found in cordless power tools, cellular phones, and cordless phones, as well as laptop computers, camcorders, digital cameras, and remote control toys.
    www.Call2Recycle.org

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Rechargeable Battery Guide

Lead Acid Batteries - NiCd Batteries

NiMH Batteries - Lithium Ion Batteries