When it comes to portable energy, batteries help make the world go round. The two most common battery types—alkaline and lithium—have some critical differences that make each better suited to specific situations. Before buying batteries, it helps to understand these variables so that you can make the right choice for your needs. This page will break down these batteries, how they function, the advantages that they bring, and their ideal application scenarios.
Lithium Batteries – An Overview
All batteries, including lithium models, use an anode (negative terminal), cathode (positive terminal), electrolyte (conductive material), and a separator to keep the two electrodes apart. When the battery operates, charged lithium ions move from anode to cathode. This transfer generates electricity until all the ions have moved from one side to the other. When charging a lithium battery, the ions return to the anode for reuse.
Features and Benefits of Lithium Batteries
- Reusability. Unlike most alkaline batteries, lithium products can be charged and reused. These batteries typically have a shelf life of two to three years, regardless of how often they’re used.
- Consistent output. Since the lithium ions can move back and forth between both electrodes, these batteries don’t lose voltage as they work. While older models can be less efficient, the electrical output should be the same whether the battery is fully charged or nearly empty.
- Customizable. While alkaline batteries come in standard sizes, lithium batteries can be built to fit different needs. For example, a compact model may work well in a digital camera, while a large piece of portable medical equipment requires a larger battery solution.
When to Use Lithium Batteries
Because of their consistent output, lithium batteries work best in applications where a loss of power is unacceptable. Some examples of products that benefit the most from lithium batteries include:
- Medical equipment
- Cameras and photography
- Wireless outdoor machinery
- Radio and communication devices
Alkaline Batteries – An Overview
Alkaline batteries work the same as lithium models, but they only transfer ions in one direction. As ions move from the anode to the cathode, the battery will lose voltage as it drains, and the system can’t be recharged. Most standard alkaline batteries use zinc for the anode and manganese dioxide as the cathode. Other varieties, such as those made from nickel and cadmium, are rechargeable, though not as reliably as lithium.
Features and Benefits of Alkaline Batteries
- Recyclable. Lithium-ion batteries have an exceptionally difficult recycling process, and many recycling centers don’t participate. Alkaline batteries are much easier to recycle.
- Cost-effective. Because alkaline batteries are mostly single-use items and utilize cheap materials, they cost significantly less than lithium batteries.
- Lower fire hazard. Where lithium batteries pose a fire hazard when damaged, alkaline batteries have a very low fire risk.
When to Use Alkaline Batteries
Overall, alkaline batteries work best for items that don’t need a consistent voltage for extended periods. Some examples of ideal products for alkaline batteries include:
- Consumer Electronics (i.e., flashlights, remote controls, etc.)
- Wireless microphones
- Smoke alarms
Get Your Batteries From EVS Supply
Whether you need alkaline or lithium batteries, make sure that you buy them from a reliable supplier. EVS Supply distributes both types of batteries and much more. We can also custom-build batteries to suit your specific needs. Contact us today to see what we can do for you.