How do Alkaline Batteries Differ from Zinc Carbon Batteries

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"How do Alkaline Batteries Differ from Zinc Carbon Batteries"
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Zinc-carbon and alkaline are two types of batteries that are available in the market. Among them, the zinc-carbon batteries were in the market before its alkaline counterpart, although both exist in the present market due to different reasons. One major reason for the continued existence of zinc-carbon batteries is their cheaper price. However, as the production costs of alkaline batteries fell gradually, the prices of the same have also fallen dramatically over the past decade.


When discussing the differences between these two types of batteries, one major difference is the higher capacity or the discharge potential in the alkaline type of batteries. In general, the alkaline batteries can have 4 to 5 times larger capacity than their zinc-carbon counterpart, and this means that alkaline batteries are capable of powering equipment and toys which demand more energy for a longer period of time.

The anode

When it comes to the composition of the two types of batteries, one major difference is the type of anode used by each of the batteries. In zinc-carbon batteries, the metal casing is made out of zinc and it secondarily functions as the batteries’ anode. In alkaline batteries, on the other hand, the function of the battery casing is just that, and it does not act as the batteries’ anode. Instead, the zinc anodes used by alkaline batteries are kept in powdered form within the metal casing.

Degradation of the metal casing

However, the use of its metal casing as the anode and the fact that it is made up of zinc means the zinc-carbon battery casing would degrade over time and therefore may become dysfunctional within a shorter period of time. At the same time, as the zinc-carbon battery casing thins-out with use, it may give-in from one of its weak spots. This can lead to battery leaks that can effectively terminate the life of the battery and be toxic to the environment. However, the alkaline batteries have avoided these deficiencies due to their metal cover not being used for chemical reactions. Therefore, alkaline batteries will have a longer shelf life than their zinc-carbon counterparts and are less likely to leak, even when the batteries have been used for a longer period.

Heavy metal constituents

In addition, zinc-carbon batteries also contain heavy metal cadmium in their composition, which can be more environmentally harmful than their alkaline counterpart, which contains only a small amount of mercury in its composition. However, given the fact that both contain heavy metals, zinc-carbon and alkaline batteries require proper disposal and recycling if the environmental damage caused by these batteries is to be kept to a minimum.

More about this author: Dr Pandula Siribaddana

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