In today's battery market, alkaline batteries are generally more popular than zinc-carbon batteries. Zinc-carbon batteries were invented first, and were more commonly sold than alkaline batteries for many years. But in the 1950s, the public would realize that significant improvements had been made to alkaline batteries, making them the better buy.
Zinc-carbon batteries were created by Georges Leclanché in 1866. Leclanche's battery consisted of a zinc anode (positive pole) and a manganese dioxide cathode (negative pole), which was dipped in an ammonium chloride solution. The manganese dioxide cathode had a small amount of carbon mixed into it. In 1886, Carl Gassner would improve on the battery that was created by Leclanché. In Gassner's version, he would mix the ammonium chloride with plaster of Paris, making a dry-cell battery. This battery was first mass-produced as the Columbia dry cell, and was marketed starting in 1896.
The alkaline battery was later created in 1899. Swedish scientist Waldemar Jungner invented the nickel-cadmium battery. This battery had nickel and cadmium electrodes in a potassium hydroxide solution, and it used an alkaline electrolyte. The product was popularly used in Sweden as early as 1910, but did not reach the United States until 1946.
The zinc-carbon battery remained popular with the public through most of the 1950s, although the low battery life affected sales. In 1955, an engineer named Lewis Urry made a significant decision, which would affect the history of the battery. Urry worked for Union Carbide, and was asked to figure out to how to extend the life of zinc-carbon batteries. But Urry had more faith in the alkaline battery, and decided to improve it instead. He created a battery with a manganese dioxide cathode and powdered zinc anode, with an alkaline electrolyte. The Eveready company began production of this battery in 1959.
After Eveready started making it, the alkaline battery became more popular than the zinc-carbon battery. Although zinc-carbon batteries are cheaper when compared to alkaline, alkaline batteries are more productive. When you use alkaline batteries, you will not have to replace them as frequently. Alkaline batteries are the better choice in your battery-draining devices.
When compared to zinc-carbon batteries, alkaline batteries are better able to withstand lower temperatures. Also, zinc-carbon batteries can sometimes leak acid into the product they are powering. Additionally, zinc-carbon batteries have a low energy density when compared to alkaline batteries.
If you are trying to save money in the long run, alkaline batteries will be your best bet. Since they have a longer lifespan than zinc-carbon batteries, the eventual cost savings will be greater.