Can Alkaline Batteries Be Recharged?
You probably use batteries for a lot of items in your day-to-day life. Batteries help power a lot of our household items. In fact, there are a lot of things we couldn’t do without batteries.
Alkaline batteries are just one type of battery, but they are often preferred because they have a longer shelf life and higher energy density than their non-alkaline counterparts.
But using them once and them throwing them away seems like a waste, especially if you’re spending a lot on batteries. Which begs the question can alkaline batteries be recharged?
Before we dive into that question, let’s quickly go over the different types of batteries. You have Alkaline, lithium-ion (Li-ion), Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd), Lead-Acid, and Nike-Metal Hydride (NiMH). These are the most common types of batteries available that you will find on the market today.
What Is an Alkaline Battery?
Now let’s look at what an alkaline battery is. Any battery is a cell that converts chemical energy into electrical energy. There are 3 main components of a typical dry cell battery, the positively charged anode, the negatively charged cathode and an electrolyte. When the electrolyte reacts with the anode and cathode the anode tends to lose electrons and the cathode gains electrons. This creates a surplus of electrons at the negative end and a deficit of electrons at the positive end of the battery, which creates electrical pressure called voltage. This voltage is what creates a batteries power.
The different type of electrolyte that is used is what makes each type of battery different. An alkaline battery has a zinc anode and a manganese dioxide cathode. The electrolyte is non-acidic. This differs from non-alkaline batteries, which have an acidic-based electrolyte. Now that you know all the technical stuff, the main takeaway is that alkaline batteries tend to perform better than non-alkaline batteries but they are also more expensive. However non-alkaline batteries are still dependable and can supply sufficient power as well.
Can Alkaline Batteries Be Recharged?
So can alkaline batteries be recharged? The answer is yes and no.
Technically speaking, any battery can be recharged. In order for a battery to be rechargeable, it must have an underlying chemical change the occurs during an electrical discharge that can be reversed by applying an opposite electrical charge to the cell. Which means that an alkaline battery qualifies for this, as it has chemical process that can be reversed.
However, just be cause an alkaline battery can be recharged, doesn’t necessarily mean that it should. Many batteries are specifically designed to be rechargeable and they are clearly labeled as such. But you won’t find many alkaline batteries labeled as rechargeable, for a few different reasons which we’ll cover in the next section.
The Pros and Cons
So now you know that alkaline batteries can be recharged. But what are the pros and cons of doing so?
First let’s look at the cons. One major drawback to recharging alkaline batteries is that their performance decreases with each recharge.
Most batteries will loose some of their power after being recharged, but the lose is much more significant with alkaline batteries. Which also means that alkaline batteries cannot be recharged as many times as other rechargeable batteries.
Some batteries can be recharged hundreds of times, whereas an alkaline battery can really only be recharged a dozen times or so.
Also, as with all batteries when they are recharged they can cause the production of gas, which can create high pressure within the battery cell causing it to bust and leak. This issue is much more common with alkaline batteries than other batteries.
Even alkaline batteries that are labeled as rechargeable still require a special charger. You can’t use other battery chargers; it must be a charger specifically for alkaline batteries. Also, alkaline batteries that are specifically designed to be rechargeable tend to have less capacity than true alkaline batteries, making it more effective to just use other types of batteries.
But there are still some advantages to recharging alkaline batteries. Because alkaline batteries have a higher voltage normally, even once they are recharged they still maintain a higher voltage than other batteries. They also have a longer shelf life than other batteries; so recharging them extends that even further. They also have a slower self-discharge and have fewer toxic metals making them more environmentally friendly.
What to do?
So, can you recharge your alkaline batteries? Yes, and some are even marketed as rechargeable alkaline batteries. However, you may not gain much value by recharging them. The amount of power that you loose when recharging an alkaline battery and the higher risk for leakage both seem like pretty good reasons not to recharge your alkaline batteries. Not to mention, you need to make sure that you have a special charger and are using batteries that are designed to be recharged. It is not recommended to recharge batteries that are not labeled as rechargeable. Ultimately, the decision is up to you whether you want to recharge your alkaline batteries or not, however keep in mind everything we’ve discussed here.
Now you know how batteries work and what alkaline batteries are. And you also know whether or not they are rechargeable. The answer to that question is yes, but whether or not you really need to recharge them is another question entirely.
Only recharge batteries that are labeled as rechargeable, whether they are alkaline or not. There are a lot of other good options out there for batteries that are rechargeable.
If you really must recharge your alkaline batteries, you can but be sure that you have a special charger. And make sure you’re aware that they will loose voltage and can also have high risks for leaks. And no one wants a leaky battery. After reading this article, all of your questions about recharging batteries should be answered. And hopefully you have a better understanding of how batteries work and which batteries you can and should recharge.