Leadacid cell battery

The most common type of battery in use today is the lead-acid cell. Lead-acid batteries are used in almost every conventional vehicle to start the internal-combustion engine. Once the engine is started, the battery is recharged. These same types of batteries are suitable for driving an electric car, and until much better technologies became available (see the next section on nickel-based batteries), were commonly used.

A plate of lead constitutes the negative electrode and a plate of lead-dioxide provides the positive electrode. Both plates are immersed in a solution of acid, most commonly sulfuric acid. The solution is referred to as the electrolyte. When the acid is fresh enough, a voltage difference is generated between the two electrodes, and a load (an electric motor, or a heater or radio) can be connected to receive electrical power. As the battery discharges its power into a load, the electrodes eventually become coated with contaminants and the nature of the acid changes. At some point the process burns itself out, and the battery can no longer deliver power to a load. On the flip side, if a current is delivered to the battery by an external power source (this is commonly called recharging, and is simply the inverse of when the battery delivers its power to a load — in this case, the battery is now the load), the electromechanical energy in the battery is restored and the battery will once again be capable of driving a load. The cycle of discharging a battery into a load and then recharging the battery can be repeated many times. At some point, the chemicals become contaminated to the point where the process is simply no longer efficient enough and the battery is discarded or rebuilt.

The amount of power that a lead-acid cell battery can deliver is a function of the acid solution (mass and purity) and the quality of the lead electrode and lead-dioxide electrode, along with their surface area. Over time, the quality of the battery components degrades, and the battery performance decreases.

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