All About Battery Energy

Contributing towards global net zero

What is a battery?

In simple terms, a battery is a device that stores and provides electricity.

When we connect a battery to something like a device or a vehicle, it supplies power to make it function. Inside the battery, there are different components that work together to create a chemical reaction. This reaction generates tiny particles called electrons, which are essentially carriers of energy. Electrons flow through a wire or circuit, powering the device and allowing it to work. So, a battery essentially acts as a portable energy source, providing the electrical energy needed to operate various devices.

A good analogy in the natural world to explain what a battery does, is to compare it to a waterfall, a flowing river and a water mill.

If there is no water running down the waterfall, then the water mill is not moving at all.

What is a battery - The waterfall analogy

The waterfall analogy

The water in the waterfall represents the stored energy in the battery. The waterfall has the potential to release the water which will flow down the river and make the water mill turn, but it won’t do so unless we direct the water to the watermill.

Now, think of the electric current that powers devices as the flowing river. When we connect the battery to a device, it’s like directing the water from the waterfall to pass through the mill. The electrons in the battery start flowing into the river and when they reach the water mill, it starts turning. If we disconnect the cable from the device, it’s like we divert the water from the mill, so the water mill stops turning. The same happens if the waterfall dries out of water, which is the equivalent of a battery running out of energy.

The difference between a “cell” and a “battery”?

Let’s first of all clarify a misconception that is all too frequent. A battery is just a box that contains different parts. The box in itself does not produce power, it is the parts that do. More specifically, one of these parts, which is called a “cell” is what creates power. So, even though the terms “battery” and “cell” are often used interchangeably, there is a technical difference between them.

A cell is a single unit that consists of two electrodes (a positive electrode called the cathode and a negative electrode called the anode) and an electrolyte, which allows the flow of charged particles (electrons) between the electrodes. You can think of a cell as the basic building block of a battery.

On the other hand, a battery is a collection of two or more cells connected together. It consists of multiple cells arranged in a series, parallel, or series-parallel configuration to provide higher voltage, capacity, or both. The cells in a battery work together to generate a larger amount of electrical energy.

What parts is a battery made of?

Now that we have clarified what a cell and a battery is, let’s see the parts they consist of:

Positive and Negative Ends: A battery has two ends, one marked with a plus sign (+) and the other with a minus sign (-). These ends are called poles, and they the place where we connect wires to get the electricity out of the battery and into a device.

Cells: Inside the battery there are one or more cells. Inside these cells, there are two different materials. One material likes to give away its electrons, and the other material likes to receive those electrons.

Electrolyte: This is a special liquid or solid material inside each cell. It helps electrons move from one material to the other.

Separator: This is a barrier between the two materials that keeps them from touching each other directly but still allows the movement of charged particles.

Outer Shell: The battery is enclosed in a case or shell made of sturdy material to protect the inside components.

How is electricity produced in a battery?

Inside the cells of a battery, there are different materials that want to react with each other. When we connect a battery to a device we want to power, we are giving those materials a chance to react.

The reaction between these materials creates a sort of “push” or pressure, like water wanting to flow from a higher place to a lower place. Only, instead of water, what flows is tiny particles called electrons.

Electrons travel through a wire, from one end of the battery to the other. As they move through the wire, they can power things like lights, motors, or other devices that we connect to the battery. So, when we connect a battery to something, it triggers a chemical reaction inside the battery. This reaction releases electrons, and these electrons flow through a wire to power the device.

In essence, batteries store chemical energy and convert it into electrical energy when required.

Below is a simplified video that explain the process of how a battery produces electricity. We thoroughly recommend watching it as it explains the principle of how batteries produce energy in a very simple but efficient way!

Why are there so many different battery types?

The different battery types are created for two reasons:

  1. To accommodate different needs in different applications or devices, and
  2. To make use of different materials for the anode, the cathode and the electrolyte that would benefit certain applications more than others

The constant research that has been going on since the early 1850’s is aimed towards finding materials that can produce or store more electricity in a smaller size and with easily accessible materials. We have a detailed section on our website about Battery Technologies, where you can read more about the most common ones, when and who invented them, and their use today.