Batteries and cells are one of the most important inventions that have made our lives and everyday tasks a lot simpler and easier. They are used practically in most of the portable electronic devices that we use in our day to day life. We can also say that we cannot imagine our lives without cells and batteries.
However, a cell and a battery are quite different from one another even though we often use both the terms interchangeably. A battery generally contains electrical energy which is already supplied from a factory or can be charged easily via an outlet. On the other hand, a cell contains chemical energy sources like diesel, propane or natural gas. It converts these sources to electrical energy to generate power. Hence, in terms of the functionalities and how it is made, there are quite a few differences between cell and battery. In this article, we will take a look at the comparison between cell vs battery.
Types of Batteries
There are two types of batteries: primary (non chargeable) and secondary (chargeable).
In primary batteries there are several different types. Here are some of them:
Alkaline (Zn/Alkaline/MnO2): These are very popular, and are known for their moderate cost and high performance. These are the most popular batteries that are used in many regular electronic items.
Magnesium (Mg/MnO2): They have a high capacity and a long shelf life. They are used in military and aircraft radio.
Mercury (Zn/HgO): They have a very high capacity and long shelf life like magnesium ones. They are used in medical equipment like hearing aids and pacemakers, and also in cameras.
Lithium/Solid Cathode: These have high energy density, a low temp performance and a long shelf life. These are used as a replacement for button and cylindrical cells.
Lithium/Soluble Cathode: Like the solid cathode these are also high energy density. These show a better performance though and a wide temp range of applications, with a capacity between 1–10,000 Ah.
Lithium/Solid Electrolyte: These are low on power, but have an extremely long shelf life. They are used in memory circuits and medical electronics.
Silver/Zinc (Zn/Ag2O): They have the highest capacity and a flat discharge, and hence are costliest. Most common uses of these are found in hearing aids and photography.
Zinc: These are low cost and come in a variety of sizes. They are used in many day to day things like radios, toys and instruments.
The main advantage of these batteries is they can be recharged and reused. Hence the other term: rechargeable batteries.
These usually cost more than the primary ones as they are rechargeable and can have a longer lifespan.
It is used mainly for energy storage devices and applications where it is used and discharged as a primary battery.
In the first application, which is the storage devices, the secondary batteries supply and store energy for devices such as Uninterrupted Power Supplies (UPS) and Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV). These are devices that are electrically connected to the main energy source, and they’re charged by it, but they also supply the needed energy.
As for the second application, where it is used and discharged as a primary battery, it works for portable electronics like mobile phones, laptops and electric vehicles. Once they’re discharged, they can be recharged with a charging mechanism.
Types of Cells
There are two types of cells.
Reserve cells are also for one-time usage, just like primary batteries. But there is a major difference. They have an electrolyte isolated from the electrodes or electrodes isolated from the electrolyte. So the electrolyte gets activated only when the battery is used. This is why these batteries do not self-discharge (like primary batteries do) and have a longer life. Some of the popular reserve cells are: thermal batteries, electrolyte activated batteries, water activated batteries, and gas activated batteries. These batteries generally find their usage in military-grade applications.
In fuel cells, the active material is fed into the battery from outside. The battery is operational only until that active material is fed to it. Fuel cells are used a lot in space applications, and also in electric vehicles, power backup and load leveling.
Cell and Battery Difference
When we take a look at what is the difference between cell and battery, the biggest difference is that a cell tends to generate energy by converting the resources available, whereas a battery generally stores energy. The difference between cell and battery in tabular form is given below.