May 25, 2024
Lead Acid Battery

Lead Acid Battery: An Overview of one of the Most Widely Used Battery Technology

The rechargeable battery was invented in 1859 by French physicist Gaston Planté and since then it has become one of the most widely used type of rechargeable battery in the world. It is commonly used in automotive starters, vehicles, motorcycles, boats and other machines that require inexpensive electrical storage.

Chemistry of Rechargeable Battery

A Lead Acid Battery works on the principal of redox reaction. It consists of lead and lead dioxide electrodes immersed in an electrolyte of diluted sulfuric acid. During charging, lead and lead dioxide plates undergo oxidation and reduction reactions respectively to store energy in the chemical bonds. In the discharging process, these reactions are reversed to produce electricity. The positive electrode is made of lead dioxide (PbO2) and the negative electrode is made of lead (Pb). Between the two electrodes is a separator that prevents electrical short-circuiting but allows the passage of ionic current through the electrolyte.

Design and Components

The basic design of a Lead Acid Battery consists of lead plates acting as electrodes which are immersed in the sulfuric acid electrolyte. The electrodes are arranged in an alternating pattern of positive and negative electrodes. Multiple such electrode-electrolyte combinations stacked together form a single cell which produces around 2 volts. For higher voltages, multiple cells are connected in series. Other main components include lead posts, cell containers and battery terminals for external connections. Modern variants use plastic containers instead of traditional glass ones for increased impact resistance.

Working Principles

During charging, the lead (Pb) electrode undergoes oxidation to form lead ions (Pb2+) and lead sulfate (PbSO4) while the lead dioxide (PbO2) electrode undergoes reduction to form lead sulfate (PbSO4). The sulfuric acid electrolyte acts as a medium for the transportation of charged particles (ions) between the electrodes. In discharge process, these chemical reactions are reversed. The lead sulfate converts back to the original electrode materials with the flow of electrons through the external circuit, producing direct current electricity.

Advantages of Lead Acid Battery

Following are some of the key advantages of using rechargeable battery:

– Low Cost: Lead Acid Battery have very low material and manufacturing costs making them very economical compared to other battery technologies.

– Mature Technology: Over 150 years of research and development has made the technology very reliable and efficient with well established recycling processes.

– Easy Maintenance: Their chemical makeup makes them tolerant to minor physical damages and overcharging within limits. They can also be deep cycle discharged without damage.

– High Surge Capability: Rechargeable battery can supply high current loads better than most other types suitable for engine starting in vehicles.

– Long Lifespan: When properly maintained, rechargeable battery can last 3 to 5 years and up to 10 years in standby applications.

– Recyclable: Almost all components of a rechargeable battery, including plastic and lead can be recycled. Over 99% of material can be recovered.

Applications of Lead Acid Battery

Given its economic viability and engineering robustness, rechargeable battery finds applications in various areas:

– Automotive Starting, Lighting and Ignition: Rechargeable battery are most commonly used to start internal combustion engines in cars, motorcycles, trucks etc.

– Telecommunications: They provide backup power for telecom towers, phone exchanges and cellular sites in case of power failure.

– Uninterruptible Power Supplies: Small UPS systems for home and office mainly use rechargeable battery for short term backup power during outages.

– Wheelchairs and Mobility Vehicles: Many battery powered wheelchairs, golf carts and other mobility vehicles use rechargeable battery packs.

– Boats, Submarines and Marine Vehicles: Their leak proof sealed versions make them suitable for marine applications prone to submersion.

– Remote Telemetry: Sensor networks, security alarms etc having battery backups often depend on rechargeable battery reliability.

Limitations of Lead Acid Battery

However, rechargeable battery also have some drawbacks like:

– Low Energy Density: Their energy density is lower compared to newer lithium-ion or nickel-metal hydride technologies.

– Self-discharge: Rechargeable battery have 5-10% self-discharge per month if left unused which reduces their effective lifespan.

– Susceptible to Overcharge: Overcharging reduces battery life by accelerating corrosion of lead plates inside. Precise charging control is required.

– Weight and Space: Their relatively low voltage and high weight-to-power ratio require more batteries and space for high energy applications.

– Environmental Concerns: Lead content causes environmental issues during battery disposal if not recycled properly.

– Shorter Lifespan: In deep cycle applications like solar backup, their lifespan can drop to 3-5 years versus 7-10 years in automotive use.

Advancements in Lead Acid Battery Technology

Despite competition from newer technologies, ongoing research continues to improve rechargeable battery:

– Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) batteries have thin sheets of glass mat between plates to immobilize acid and allow mounting in any direction.

– Gel batteries gelify sulfuric acid to prevent spills but reduce power delivery. Best suited for stationary applications.

– Enhanced Flooded Battery (EFB) technology provides higher cyclability and charge acceptance for better float life in data centers.

– Carbon additives in negative plates increase charge acceptance and cycle life for solar/UPS applications

Rechargeable battery will likely continue its dominance in sectors like automotive starting, motorsports, forklifts and stationary energy storage due to cost competitiveness and technical maturity. Its use in new technologies like micro-hybrid electric vehicles is also gaining popularity. Though challenged by newer high energy density batteries, ongoing R&D ensures lead acid’s relevance especially for mission critical and economically sensitive applications.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it