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An electrical battery is a combination of one or more electrochemical cells that convert stored chemical energy into electrical energy.

Electrochemical cell types Cells are broadly classified into two categories.

Primary cells- irreversibly transform chemical energy to electrical energy(Chemical reactions are non reversible).

Secondary cells- can be recharged, i.e they can have their chemical reactions reversed by supplying electrical energy to the cell restoring their original composition.

Principal divisions of a battery

Primary batteries are non-rechargable, e.g. “dry cell” flash batteries. The chemical reactions are non reversible

Secondary batteries are rechargeable e.g. lead acid battery. The chemical reactions are reversible in secondary batteries.

Secondary batteries or storage batteries are of chief interest for solar and wind energy electrical storage.

Basic battery theory

A generalized cell consists of two electrodes called anode and cathode immersed in a suitable electrolyte. When an electrical load is connected between electrodes charge separation occurs at the interface between one electrode and the electrolyte, freeing both an electron and ion.

The electron flows through the external load and ion through the electrolyte recombining at the other electrode. The polarity and magnitude of the cell terminal voltage is in general a function of the electrode materials, electrolyte, cell temperature and other factors.

Lead-acid battery

The lead-acid battery was the first storage battery. In spite of its defects, it is still the one in widest use. The name arises from the chemical nature of the electrodes (lead) and the electrolyte(acid) in which the electrodes are immersed. The active material of the positive electrode is lead oxide(PbO2) whereas that of the negative electrode is metallic lead(Pb). The electrolyte is an aqueous solution of sulphuric acid.

When the cell is discharged, the active materials of both electrodes are converted into lead sulphate(PbSO4). The process is reversed when the cell is discharged. Lead oxide is regenerated at the positive electrode and lead at the negative electrode. The net chemical reactions taking place upon discharging and charging the battery are as follows.





+ 2









+ 2



The E.M.F of the lead- acid cell depends on the concentration of the sulphuric acid. In practice, the concentration is indicated by the specific gravity of the electrolyte. In a fully charged cell, the specific gravity is usually about 1.26 to 1.28 at 25 0 C. The e.m.f of the lead-acid cell is then close to 2.1 Volts. An increase or decrease in the specific gravity(i.e in the acid concentration) is accompanied by an increase or decrease respectively in the e.m.f.

Different types of battery arrangement

In a storage battery, individual cells are connected in various ways.

battery, individual cells are connected in various ways. Individual cells may be combined in the positive

Individual cells may be combined in


positive electrode of each cell connected to the negative electrode of the adjacent cell. The total e.m.f or voltage of the battery is the sum of the separate voltages.



In most automobile batteries, for example, six cells each with an e.m.f of close to 2 volts are connected in series to provide a 12V output. The total current in amperes drawn from the series of cells is however same as that drawn from each cell.

of cells is however same as that drawn from each cell. Storage cells in a battery

Storage cells in a battery can also be combined in parallel. All the positive electrodes of the individual cells are connected together and so also are all the negative electrodes. The battery voltage is now the same as that of a single cell, but the current is the sum of the currents supplied by the individual cells.

By combining appropriate number of cells in both series and parallel, the battery can deliver the desired voltage and current. The power of a battery(i.e the rate at which stored energy is withdrawn) in watts is equal to the product of the e.m.f in volts and the current in amperes.

Power(watts)= EMF(volts) * Current(amperes)

Hence an appropriate combination of cells can provide the desired power output.

Advantages of Batteries for bulk energy storage

The benefits and advantages of batteries for bulk storage can be summarized as follows:

1. Mitigation of oil shortage and import problems.

2. Lower cost of electric energy-as the result of saving in fuel cost and improved utilization in capital equipment.

3. Modulability and lower capital cost of batteries.

4. Environmental pollution abatement of air and noise and aesthetic conservation.

5. Substantive savings in power transmission.

6. Shorter lead time for construction.

Fuel cell

A cell or a combination of cells capable of generating an electric current by converting

the chemical energy of a fuel directly into electrical energy is called a fuel cell.

The fuel cell is similar to other electric cells in the respect that it consists of positive and negative electrodes with an electrolyte between them. Fuel in a suitable form is supplied

to the negative electrode and oxygen, often from air, to the positive electrode. When the

cell operates, the fuel is oxidized and the chemical reaction provides the energy that is converted into electricity.

Fuel cells differ from conventional electric cells in the respect that the active material(i.e fuel and oxygen) are not contained within the cell but are supplied from outside.

But for its costs, pure(or fairly pure)hydrogen gas would be preferred fuel for cells. Alternatively impure hydrogen obtained from hydrocarbon fuels, such as natural gas or substitute natural gas(methane), liquefied petroleum gas(propane and butane) or liquid petroleum products, can be used in fuel cells.

Design and principle of operation of a fuel cell(with special reference to H 2 O 2 cell)

As per the fuel used, the main types of fuel cells are

Hydrogen (H2) fuel cell

Hydrazine (N2H4) fuel cell

Hydrocarbon fuel cell, and

Alcohol( Methanol) fuel cell

Hydrogen, Oxygen(Hydrox) cell is the most efficient and the most highly developed fuel cell.

The main components of a fuel cell are:

A fuel electrode(negative electrode)

An oxidant or air electrode(positive electrode), and

An electrolyte

In most fuel cell, hydrogen(pure or impure) is the active material at the negative electrode

and oxygen(from the oxygen or air) is active at the positive electrode. Since hydrogen and oxygen are gases, a fuel cell requires a solid electrical conductor to serve as a current collector and to provide a terminal at each electrode. The solid electrode material is generally porous. Porous nickel electrodes and porous carbon electrodes are generally used in fuel cells for commercial applications. Platinum and other precious metals are being used in certain fuel cells which have potential utility in military and space applications.

The porous electrode has a large number of sites, where the gas, electrolyte and electrode

The porous electrode has a large number of sites, where the gas, electrolyte and electrode are in contact. The

electrochemical reactions take place at these sites. The










included in the electrode to accelerate them.

Figure shows a schematic diagram of a hydrox cell. Hydrogen gas is supplied to one electrode and oxygen gas(or air) to the other. Between the electrodes is a layer of electrolyte. The electrolyte is usually an aqueous solution of an alkali or acid. Electric current is drawn from the cell in the usual manner by connecting a load between the electrode terminals.

The electro chemical reactions occurring at the electrodes of a hydrogen-oxygen cell may vary with the nature of the electrolyte, but basically they are as follows.

At the negative electrode, hydrogen gas (H 2 ) is converted into hydrogen ions(H + ) i.e hydrogen with a positive electric charge, plus an equivalent number of electrons. Thus



2H + 2e

At this electrode, hydrogen is diffused through the permeable nickel in which is embedded a catalyst. The catalyst enables the hydrogen molecules, H 2 to be absorbed on the electrode surface as hydrogen atoms, which react with the hydroxyl ions(OH-) in the electrolyte to form water.

When the cell is operating and producing current, the electrons flow through the external load to the positive electrode. Here they interact with oxygen(O 2 ) and water(H 2 O) from the electrolyte to form negatively charged hydroxyl (OH - ) ions. Thus





+ H O + 2e



The hydrogen and hydroxyl ions then combine in the electrolyte to produce water







The electrolyte is typically 40% KOH solution because of its high electrical conductivity and since it is less corrosive than acids.

When the cell is operating, the overall process is the chemical combination of hydrogen and oxygen gases to form water that is




1 H O

2 2



. So water is the waste product of the cell.

The reactants are stored outside the cell (note difference from storage battery), and the electrodes and electrolyte are not consumed in the overall process. These properties lead to the design of convenient small size and long life power units.

Hydrogen fuel cells(Hydrox) are of two types:

1. Low temperature cell—The electrolyte temperature is 90 0 C. It is sometimes pressurized, but not by a great amount, usually say upto 4 atmospheres.

2. High pressure cell --- Pressure is upto about 45 atmosphers and temperatures upto 300 0 C.

A single Hydrox fuel cell can produce an e.m.f of 1.23 volts at 1 atm and 25 0 C. By connecting a number of cells, it is possible to create useful potential of 100 to 1000 volts and power levels of 1kW to 100MW nearly. The current depends on the physical size of the cell. The output of the fuel cell varies directly with the pressure, so as to increase the cell output, the gas pressure is raised. The optimum size of the cell at present is about 0.27 cu m per kW.

Such cells with porous nickel electrodes and potassium hydroxide electrolyte have been used to provide electric power for the Apollo and shuttle spacecraft. The hydrogen and oxygen for operating the cell are stored in liquid form to minimize the volume occupied.

Fuel cells have several applications---

Fuel cells have applications in domestic appliances, Power stations, Automotive vehicles etc.

The average voltage per cell is 0.75V. By joining a number of cells in series and parallel can provide any reasonable voltage and current.

Fuel cells generate direct current which can be used for electric lamps and some small applications such as heat pumps, motors etc.

Fuel cells can be made in modules of different size that are readily transportable. They can then be assembled at any location to provide a specified voltage and power output. The modular design should make it possible to construct plants of various capacities for different requirements.

They are used as a substitute for storage batteries and primary cells for higher kW and Ah ratings.

Replacement for internal combustion engines in tractors, automobiles, etc. The fuel cells will deliver the electrical power to drive the electric motor.

Sources of electrical power for remote installations, space ships, ocean ships, mega buildings, auxiliary and emergency supplies, passenger boats, submarines, electrical vehicles, electrical locomotives, and possibly for utility power plants.

Hydrogen energy

Hydrogen as an energy carrier can play an important role as an alternative to conventional fuels. One of the most attractive features of hydrogen as an energy carrier is that it can be produced from water which is abundantly available in nature. Hydrogen has the highest energy content per unit mass of any chemical fuel and can be substituted for



efficiency. Its burning process is non-polluting and it can be used in the fuel cells to produce both electricity and useful heat.










The combination of hydrogen and oxygen(e.g. from air) results in the liberation of energy, with water as the sole material product; thus,




1 O H O + energy



The reaction can be carried out and the energy made available in several different ways,

so that hydrogen is a versatile fuel material.

Hydrogen is chemically very reactive and hence it is not found in its free state on the earth. However, combined chemically with other elements, it is present in water, fossil hydrocarbons, biological materials such as cellulose, starch etc., minerals such as bicarbonate rocks. Energy must be supplied to these compounds to break the chemical bonds to release hydrogen. Unlike fossil(coal, natural gas and petroleum) and nuclear fuels and solar radiation, which are primary energy sources, hydrogen is a secondary fuel that is produced by utilizing energy from a primary source. Much of this energy can be recovered by recombination of the hydrogen with oxygen.

The simplest practical way to obtain hydrogen from water is by means of electrical energy (electrolysis). Hence electrical energy can be conveniently stored and transmitted by way of hydrogen in some situations. Electricity is generated from distributed primary sources, such as geothermal energy, wind energy and some other forms of solar energy, often at a distance from a load centre or an electric utility grid. Conversion into hydrogen fuel would then be a practical means of energy transmission.

One of the potential advantages of hydrogen as a secondary fuel is that it can be transmitted and distributed by pipe line in much the same way as natural gas. Alternatively, the hydrogen gas could be converted into liquid form by cooling to a very low temperature and transported in insulated tanks by high way rail-road. On a smaller scale, hydrogen gas could be compressed into transportable cylinders. Another possibility is to form a solid compound of a metal with hydrogen from which the gas can be recovered, where required, by heating. Thus hydrogen can serve as a means of carrying energy from the place where a primary source is available to a distant load centre where the energy is used.

An important aspect of hydrogen utilization is that it is accompanied by little or no atmospheric pollution. In many cases, such as when hydrogen is burned in pure oxygen, in a flameless (catalytic converter) burner in air, or in a fuel cell with air or oxygen, water is the sole product. However, if hydrogen is burned normally in air or in a spark-ignition engine or a gas turbine, nitrogen oxides may be produced by combination at high temperature of the nitrogen and oxygen in the air. By using an excess of air relative to the hydrogen consumed or by introducing water vapour, the flame temperature can be reduced to the point where nitrogen oxide formation is small.

Hydrogen as an alternative fuel for motor vehicles

The use of hydrogen fuel in internal combustion engines for automobiles, buses, trucks, and farm machinery has attracted interest as a means of conserving petroleum products and of reducing atmospheric pollution. Because of the fuel is a gas, the conventional carburetor of a spark-ignition engine, in which liquid gasoline is vapourized in air, must be modified for use with hydrogen.

The other way to utilize hydrogen as a vehicle fuel is the use of fuel cells. Hydrogen is utilized in fuel cells and the electricity is generated, which could be utilized to operate electric motors to propel the vehicle.

In the use of hydrogen as an alternative fuel, the storage of the fuel on board the vehicle constitutes an important problem. For motor vehicles hydrogen could in principle be stored as compressed gas, chemically as a metal hydride, or as a liquid.

The storage of compressed gas would be difficult on grounds of safety because of the high pressures required. Furthermore, even at pressures around 200 bar the quantity of hydrogen stored amounts to only about 1% of the weight of the container, while the volume of the container is only 20 times greater than that of an equivalent gasoline tank.

In metal hydrides hydrogen atoms are incorporated in the crystal lattice of metals or alloys, and each lattice atom can absorb up to two hydrogen atoms or in individual cases between two or three. When the hydride is heated, the hydrogen is released and the original metal (or alloy) is recovered for further use.

Hydrogen can be stored as liquid at low temperature (i.e cryogenic stage). Liquid hydrogen boils at -253 o C and therefore must be maintained at or below this temperature in storage.

Hydrogen has several applications. Presently it is economically non-competitive against natural gas. Hydrogen is difficult to handle and store. Making hydrogen by electrolysis of water is an uneconomical proposition for hydrogen as energy. The direct themolysis of water may prove economical in future.

Some scientists consider Hydrogen as a source of energy for future. This possibility would become strong when natural gas resources get completely depleted.