IB DP Physics: HL复习笔记5.3.2 Investigating Electric Cells

Investigating Electric Cells

Zinc-carbon cells

  • Zinc-carbon cells are the most common type of primary cells, consisting of
    • a zinc casing which acts as the negative electrode
    • a paste of ammonium chloride which acts as an electrolyte as well as the positive electrode
    • a carbon rod which acts as an electron carrier in the cell


The zinc-carbon cell

  • These cells are the commonly found AA and AAA and other similar battery types
  • As the cell discharges, the zinc casing eventually wears away and the corrosive contents of the electrolyte paste can leak out, which is an obvious disadvantage of zinc-carbon cells
  • The cell provides a small current and is relatively cheap compared to other cells
  • Extra-long life cells have similar chemistry, but supply a higher current and use zinc chloride in the paste; they are suitable for torches, radios, and clocks
  • Another variation on the cell uses an alkaline paste in the electrolyte and they have a much longer operating life but are noticeably more expensive than regular zinc-carbon cells

Secondary Cells

Lead-acid batteries
  • Lead-acid batteries consist of six cells joined together in series
  • The cells use lead metal as the negative electrode and lead(IV) oxide as the positive electrode
  • The electrolyte is sulfuric acid


A lead-acid battery

  • When the car is in motion, the generator provides a push of electrons that reverses the reaction and regenerates lead and lead(IV) oxide
  • Lead-acid batteries are designed to produce a high current for a short period of time, hence their use in powering a starter motor in car engines
  • The disadvantage of lead-acid batteries is that:
    • They are very heavy
    • They contain toxic materials: lead and lead(IV) oxide
    • The sulfuric acid electrolyte is very corrosive
  • This presents challenges of disposal when lead-acid batteries come to the end of their useful life
Lithium Cells
  • Lithium ion cells power the laptop or mobile device you are probably reading this on
  • The Noble Prize for Chemistry in 2019 was awarded to John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino for their work on lithium ion cells that have revolutionized portable electronics
  • Lithium is used because it has a very low density and relatively high electrode potential
  • The cell consists of:
    • a positive lithium cobalt oxide electrode
    • a negative carbon electrode
    • a porous polymer membrane electrolyte
  • The polymer electrolyte cannot leak since it is not a liquid or paste, which presents advantages over other types of cells


Lithium ion cell

  • The cell consists of a sandwich of different layers of lithium cobalt oxide and carbon
  • When the cell is charged and discharged the lithium ions flow between the negative and the positive through the solid electrolyte
  • The half-cell reactions on discharge are:

Li (s) →   Li(s)  +  e–                                                                E = -3 V 

Li+ (s)  + CoO2 (s)  +  e →   Li (CoO2 (s)                E = +1 V

  • The cell generates an emf of between 3.5 V and 4.0 V and the overall reaction is

         Li (s)  + CoO2 (s)  →   Li (CoO2 (s)                         Ecell ~ +3.5

  • NiCad cells have a problem called the memory effect in which they gradually begin to lose their charge after repeated charge cycles when the cell is not fully discharged. The cells appear to 'remember' their lower state of charge
  • Lithium-ion cells do not have this problem so can be topped up without any loss of charge
  • Some of the problems with lithium ion cells:
    • global shortage of lithium is likely to make lithium ion cells unsustainable as the current demand for lithium exceeds the supply
    • If cells are not recycled but thrown away in landfills, then a huge amount of lithium becomes lost to future generations
    • Reports of lithium ion cell fires have raised concern about the safety of these batteries in electronic devices; it is a reminder to us that lithium is a very reactive element in Group 1 of the periodic table, which is why it has a high electrode potential