How Do Batteries Work?

It’s the age-old question that springs to our minds whenever we use or think about batteries: just how do they work? How can these small metallic cylinders provide so much useful energy for our products and systems?

Why is it that, when we place these little magical cells into our devices, they give us life?

If you travelled back to the seventeenth century and demonstrated the amazing capabilities of batteries, they’d probably think you were a witch.

So, in this infographic from Battery Shop Sussex we answer one simple question: how do batteries work?

Perhaps many of you don’t think about this question at all – using them has become so commonplace and natural that sometimes we may not even think about batteries and how they work. This goes to show how much we take electricity supplies for granted, and how easy, convenient, and advanced they have made our society. The archaic days of gas lamps and candles truly seem lightyears away.

And now, we live in an ever-connected world, all powered by batteries and other sources of power.

Batteries provide useful, compact sources of power for all kinds of products we use, ranging from IT systems all the way through to cosmetic appliances. However, their power is limited, and are at the mercy of time.

What happens inside a battery when its energy becomes depleted? And how does recharging a battery work?

As our infographic shows, to understand how batteries work, you need to understand how electricity works.

And it’s all to do with electrons. As our much-loved science classes told us, electrons are negatively charged, sub-atomic particles. Phew.

And when all these excited electrons start flowing in a contained wire, we have got a completed circuit. And we get something magical called electricity.

Now, batteries have three main components that help bring electricity to our lives. An anode (negatively charged), a cathode (positively charged), and an electrolyte – not the stuff in your energy drink.

And when all of these start partying, boy will you know about it.

When you hook up a battery to a circuit, the wires are attached to each anode and cathode, and a build-up of electrons at the anode occurs. 

With all these electrons building up at one end of the battery, the electrons don’t like this. Not one bit.

So, what do they do? They leave the party and go someplace else. Somewhere where they can be at peace, with fewer electrons.

By repelling each other, in a battery the only other place with a party is the cathode.

But with an electrolyte in place, not all of them can quickly leave and go to the other party.

Unless, of course, the circuit is complete (by this we mean both wires are connected to the battery).

These electrochemical processes are tiring, which is why the anode and cathode stop supplying electrons.

This helps to explain why our batteries have limited power. The solution? Re-charging.

Re-charging essentially reverses this process and changes the direction of electrons, helping us to again enjoy all the power!

So, now you know how batteries work – and all the science behind the scenes that bring your device to life.