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Why Do Alkaline Batteries Leak – Cause, Solution, and Types
Alkaline batteries are a principle type of disposable batteries that function via the reaction of zinc metal and manganese dioxide as electrodes. These batteries were brought into public use in the 1960s and since then have become one of the most used forms of batteries in the world. The use of alkaline batteries ranges from remote control devices to battery-operated toys to cameras and radios etc.
Alkaline batteries offer stabilized voltage output, high energy density, leakage resistance, and shelf life as compared to zinc-chloride and carbon-zinc batteries. Alkaline batteries are available in 9 cell sizes and each of these types offers different voltage output.
What Causes Alkaline Battery Leakage?
Alkaline batteries are one of the most popular forms of batteries in the world and are used in almost all daily routine appliances. Even though they have longer shelf lives than other battery types working on the same principle, alkaline batteries can leak if left installed inside a device for too long. A white powder-like material leaks out of the cell and makes it unfit for the operation. To prevent battery leakage from happening, it is very important to learn the root causes.
For the alkaline battery to work, several chemical reactions happen inside the battery cell. These reactions create hydrogen gas which in return creates pressure inside the cell. In normal use, the battery is designed to endure the gaseous pressure, however, if left for too long this pressure can cause leakage.
If the insulating closures at the battery end fail, the hydrogen gas leaks through it. However, in some cases, the outer steel casing of the cell also corrodes and causes leakage of gas and the white material. Caution must be taken because coming in contact with the white material (Potassium hydroxide) is dangerous for the human skin, eye, and respiratory tracts. In reality, potassium hydroxide reacts with the air after coming out of the cell and form potassium carbonate i.e. the white powder-like material.
How Do You Stop Alkaline Batteries from Leaking?
The main reason that accounts for the leakage of alkaline batteries is leaving the batteries inside the device for too long. The prevention of leakage in case of this blunder is to take the battery out when the device it is in is not being used.
Also, sometimes to power up devices people tend to use batteries of different output voltage levels, energy density, and manufacturers. What happens is that this mixing up of specifications causes an imbalance in the function of the device and batteries. The stronger battery will offer more output and perform more work resulting in a higher discharge rate. Batteries with lower output voltage and energy density will not be used to their complete potential. This imbalance in the chemical reactions of the battery causes irregular pressure releases and raptured battery cells.
Another reason that adds up to the leakage of alkaline batteries is using new and old batteries together when multiple cells are required. This produces another imbalance in the battery performance because old batteries have a lower energy density level as compared to the batteries that are new. Old batteries are low on potential and are not utilized completely by the device, whereas, the new battery is at its full potential and is over-utilized by the device creating increased pressure inside the cell.
A device that has gone through battery leakage should not be dealt with carelessness. One should stay cautious because the battery chemicals are harmful to human health. To clean a battery leakage take a piece of cloth or cotton and rinse it with a dilute acid such as lemon juice or vinegar. Clean the potassium carbonate residue with the rinsed piece of cotton/cloth. Perform the process slowly because it takes time for the acid to neutralize the effect of potassium carbonate. As a reaction, the liquid will cause the white powder-like material to soften allowing you to rub it away.
Another way to stop the leaking of alkaline batteries is to replace them with lithium-ion batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are expensive when compared to alkaline batteries but they do not have leakage issues. They also do not discharge even if left unused inside the device.
Which Batteries Are Least Likely To Leak?
There are a lot of different types of batteries available in the market. Every battery has its use and offers its unique advantages and disadvantages. However, the most common problem that every user seeks to avoid is leakage of the battery.
Technically, batteries are classified into two types depending on the main character, the ability to be recharged. Based on this characteristic, there two types of batteries available in the market are:
1.Non-rechargeable Batteries – also called Primary Batteries
2.Rechargeable Batteries – also called Secondary Batteries
Non-rechargeable batteries, as their name suggests, can not be charged again and are for one-time use only. The main problem with this type of battery is that it goes under leakage if left unused or if put into use under imbalanced conditions. However, with the advancements in technology, alkaline batteries are now becoming more and more resistant to leakage.
The best alkaline battery that does not leak and has the longest shelf-life is manufactured by the company Energizer. These alkaline batteries are available in AA size. Also, the coin cell batteries are least likely to suffer leakage because they offer low voltage levels as compared to the A and AA alkaline cells.
Rechargeable batteries also have a very slight chance of suffering battery leakage or cell corrosion. They also provide a stable voltage output, high energy density, and longer shelf life all of which helps in maintaining a non-leak nature of the battery. Lead-acid, Lithium-ion, Nickel-Cadmium, Nickel-Metal Hydride, and Lithium-ion polymer are the type of non-rechargeable secondary batteries that are less likely to leak.