Alkaline battery

Alkaline battery

Alkaline batteries are a type of disposable battery dependent upon the reaction between zinc and manganese (IV) oxide (Zn/MnO2).

Compared with zinc-carbon batteries of the Leclanché or zinc chloride types, while all produce approximately 1.5 volts per cell, alkaline batteries have a higher energy density and longer shelf-life. Compared with silver-oxide batteries, which alkalines commonly compete against in button cells, they have lower energy density and shorter lifetimes but lower cost.

The alkaline battery gets its name because it has an alkaline electrolyte of potassium hydroxide, as opposed to the acidic electrolyte of the zinc-carbon batteries which are offered in the same nominal voltages and physical size.


In an alkaline battery, the anode (negative terminal) is made of zinc powder (which allows more surface area for increased rate of reaction therefore increased electron flow) and the cathode (positive terminal) is composed of manganese dioxide. When describing standard "AAA battery", "AA battery", "C", "sub-C" and "D" type cells, the anode is connected to the flat end while the cathode is connected to the end with the raised button. Alkaline batteries are comparable to zinc-carbon batteries, but the difference is that alkaline batteries use potassium hydroxide (KOH) as an electrolyte rather than ammonium chloride or zinc chloride.

The half-reactions are: [ [ Battery FAQ] at] : Zn (s) + 2OH (aq) → ZnO (s) + H2O (l) + 2e: 2MnO2 (s) + H2O (l) + 2e →Mn2O3 (s) + 2OH (aq)


Capacity of an alkaline battery is larger than an equal size Leclanché or zinc-chloride cell because the maganese dioxide anode material is purer and denser, and space taken up by internal components such as current collectors is less. An alkaline cell can provide between three and five times as much operating time. [Reddy, page 10.14 ]

The capacity of an alkaline battery is strongly dependent on the load. An AA-sized alkaline battery might have an effective capacity of 3000 mAh at low power, but at a load of 1000 mA, which is common for digital cameras, the capacity could be as little as 700 mAh. [ [ Alkaline Drain Chart] at] The voltage of the battery declines steadily during use, so the total usable capacity depends on the cut-off voltage of the application. Unlike Leclanche cells the alkaline cell delivers about as much capacity on intermittent or continuous light loads. On a heavy load, capacity is reduced on continuous discharge compared with intermittent discharge, but the reduction is less than for Leclanche cells.


The amount of current an alkaline battery can deliver is roughly proportional to its physical size. This is a result of decreasing internal resistance as the internal surface area of the cell increases. A general rule of thumb is that an AA alkaline battery can deliver 1000mA without any significant heating. Larger cells, such as C and D cells, can deliver more current. Applications requiring high currents of several amps, such as high powered flashlights and boom-boxes, will require D-sized cells to handle the increased load.


Alkaline batteries are manufactured in standardized cylindrical forms interchangeable with zinc-carbon batteries, and in button forms. Several individual cells may be interconnected to form a true "battery", such as those sold for use with flashlights and the 9 volt transistor-radio battery. [ Reedy, pages 10.6 through 10.12 ,]

A cylindrical cell is contained in a drawn steel can, which is the cathode current collector. The cathode mixture is a compressed paste of manganese dioxide with carbon powder added for increased conductivity. The paste may be pressed into the can or deposited as pre-molded rings. The hollow center of the cathode is lined with a separator, which prevents mixing of the anode and cathode materials and short-circuiting of the cell. The separator is made of a non-woven layer of cellulose or a synthetic polymer. The separator must conduct ions and remain stable in the highly alkaline electrolyte solution.

The anode is composed of a dispersion of zinc powder in a gel containing the potassium hydroxide electrolyte. To prevent gassing of the cell at the end of its life, more manganese dioxide is used than required to react with all the zinc.

Recharging of alkaline batteries

Some alkaline batteries are designed to be recharged, but most are not. Attempts to recharge may cause rupture, or leak hazardous liquids which will corrode the equipment.


Over time, alkaline batteries are prone to leaking potassium hydroxide, a caustic agent that can cause respiratory, eye and skin irritation. This can be avoided by not attempting to recharge alkaline cells, not mixing different battery types in the same device, replacing all of the batteries at the same time, storing in a dry place, and removing batteries for storage of devices.


When introduced in the 1960s, alkaline batteries contained a small amount of mercury amalgam to control side reactions at the zinc cathode. Improvements in the purity and consistency of materials have allowed manufacturers to reduce the mercury content in modern cells. [ David Linden, Thomas B. Reddy (ed). Handbook Of Batteries 3rd Edition. McGraw-Hill, New York, 2002 ISBN 0-07-135978-8 page 10.2 ] Unlike other types of batteries, alkaline batteries are allowed to be disposed of as regular domestic waste in some locations. This, however, is not environmentally friendly. [ [ Battery Recycling and Disposal Guide] at] [ [ Household battery fact sheet] at ] For example the state of California has deemed all batteries as hazardous waste when discarded, and has banned the disposal of batteries with other domestic waste. [ [ CA Integrated Waste Management Board] ] In the US, one company shreds and separates the battery case metals, manganese and zinc. [] Another company mixes batteries in as a feedstock in steel making furnaces, to make low-grade steel such as rebar; the zinc fumes are recovered separately. [] In Europe battery disposal is controlled by the WEEE regulations, and as such alkaline batteries must not be thrown in with domestic waste. They should be disposed through local recycling stations / waste dumps. In the EU most stores which sell batteries (i.e. supermarkets) are required by law to accept old batteries for recycling.

ee also

*Lewis Urry
*Oxyride battery
*Rechargeable battery
*Rechargeable alkaline battery
*List of battery sizes
*Battery recycling
*Battery holder


External links

* [ Alkaline Material Safety Data for Duracell Alkaline Batteries]
* [ Big Green Box - Easy Battery Recycling & Disposal]
* [ Kinsbursky Brothers Nationwide Battery Recycling]
* [ Toxco Battery Recycling]
* [ Alkaline batteries]
* [ Proper battery disposal and recycling]
* [ Alkaline battery recharging circuitry]
* [ Brand Neutral Alkaline Battery Specifications Based On ANSI Standards]
* [ Overview Of Battery Standards and Testing]

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